Jets embattled defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson was inactive for the second game in a row in the team’s loss to the Chargers in Week 16. While Wilkerson did sign a lucrative $86MM contract extension about a year and a half ago, it’s unlikely that the former first round pick will be back in New York next season, opines Rich Cimini of ESPN.com.
Heach coach Todd Bowles was unsure whether the healthy scratch trend would continue for Wilkerson in the final week of the regular season, noting to reporters simply that “We’ll see.” Cimini also points out that the decision to keep Wilkerson off the field appeared to come directly from Bowles himself and not the front office.
“I made him inactive,” Bowles said. “Coach’s decision.”
Wilkerson did practice during the week, but notably arrived late for a team meeting, which may have ultimately titled Bowles’ decision to sit his highest-paid player. Cimini further reports that the Jets plan on cutting the 28-year-old before his $16.8MM salary becomes guaranteed in March.
The Jets decided to extend Wilkerson after a 12.5 sack performance in 2015. But he’s disappointed since then, collecting just eight sacks in 28 games, including only 3.5 sacks this season.
Here’s more stories surrounding Gang Green:
- In another story from Cimini, he passes along that while the Jets will finish under-.500 for the second season in a row, Bowles should still be the team’s head coach come Week 1 next year based on what Jets ownership has said throughout this season. Acting owner Christopher Johnson emphasized early on the word “progress” over “playoffs” and it seems like the team has made a lot of strides in Bowles’ third go around with the franchise. The Jets have been in nearly every game this year without the talent you expect from a at least a mildly competitive team. “You just keep your head down and just keep working,” Bowles said. “We’re in every game. We’re not closing them out. We’re not finishing them. For whatever reason, we’re not making plays in the fourth quarter to finish these games. You keep working and you keep trying to find a solution.” Cimini only sees the Jets ownership firing Bowles if there is a dramatic shift in philosophy, even though there’s be nothing to signal that there is a change in the way Johnson is thinking about the future of the organization.
- Former fourth round pick Bryce Petty continues to struggle in a starting role for the Jets. Cimini notes that since he made his first start in 2016, the former Baylor quarterback has thrown at least one interception and no more than one touchdown in every start he’s made. Without veteran QB Josh McCown, the team has taken a major step back with Petty under center, which has caused a lot of frustration around the team, according to Brian Costello of the Brian Costello of the New York Post. “Bryce needs to work his way through things,” Bowles explained. “It’s only his second game starting this year. He needs to go through that.” However, it’s clear that after two separate tryouts in the past two seasons, Petty doesn’t look like he’s going to be a major factor on the Jets QB depth chart moving forward.
- Costello also reports that backup quarterback Christian Hackenberg was close to relieving Petty at some point in the second half, but Bowles ultimately decided to keep him on the sideline. “Bryce is the backup quarterback,” Bowles explained. “He won it in the summer. You put the backup in. You don’t put a three over a two. Christian is not that bad. Bryce did not have a good ballgame. It’s only his second start. I’m not going to sit here and condemn the guy because he didn’t play well in week two of starting this year after not playing all year.” Hackenberg has been notably absent from the quarterback conversation since he was drafted by New York in the second of the 2016 NFL Draft. Many pundits understood that he was raw coming out of Penn State, but it’s been surprising that he has gotten zero snaps in what’s been two lost seasons for the franchise. The lack of playing time certainly points to the Jets looking for another long-term option either in the draft or the free agent market for next year’s team.