New York Daily News reporter Manish Mehta even went as far as guaranteeing a Pro Bowl appearance for Wilkerson, via Twitter:
Wilkerson, 23, was one of the few bright spots for the Jets last season, finishing second on the team in sacks (5.5) and forced fumbles (4) and fourth in total tackles (69). His play was a huge reason why the Jets finished eighth in total defense last year.
While his numbers did not scream “Pro Bowl,” his impact was felt more in the trenches. Wilkerson repeatedly took on double teams to free up other Jets pass-rushers, such as Quinton Coples and Calvin Pace.
This season, Wilkerson has taken on more of a leadership role, according to Jets defensive line coach Karl Dunbar. Dunbar told George Willis of the New York Post that Wilkerson has played more like a veteran than just a third year player.
He now has the savvy of a veteran and it’s only his third year. He was thrown in the fire his first year, and last year you could see the lights come on. He did a lot of good things for us and we’re looking for that to springboard into this year.
Wilkerson will lead the defensive line, which should be the focal point of the Jets defense. Head coach Rex Ryan has always relied on strong play from his defensive line to free up space for other players in his exotic pass rush packages.