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Wilkerson: Jets can still be playoff-caliber team

November 20, 2013

ELIZABETH, N.J. (AP) — Muhammad Wilkerson knows how it looked for the New York Jets on Sunday.

And, it wasn’t good. At all.

Despite a mistake-filled 37-14 rout at Buffalo, the Jets defensive lineman expects things to get better in a big way. So, don’t cancel those postseason plans just yet.

“I think after that game, that wasn’t a playoff-caliber team,” Wilkerson said Tuesday night at a charity event during which he gave out 200 turkeys and Thanksgiving meals.

“I think we’re capable of being there. If guys just do their jobs and do their assignments and fix the mental breakdowns that we’ve been having, I think we’ll finish strong and be a playoff team.”

Sure, they played like anything but a team making a postseason push, but the Jets (5-5) still hold the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFC. That’s despite being the first team in NFL history to alternate wins and losses through their first 10 games.

“Time isn’t running out for us,” Wilkerson said. “We know what we’ve got to do. We’ve got to get these last six games, and everybody knows that they’re capable of helping out and contributing. We’ve just got to put the pieces together and make sure we finish strong.”

Next up for the Jets are the Baltimore Ravens, Rex Ryan’s old squad which is in a large group of teams sitting at 4-6 — one game behind New York and Miami.

“Got to get this ship right,” said defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson, who helped Wilkerson at the event. “We’ve got to get some consecutive wins, we’ve got to bounce back again and we’re back in the pack, so we’ve got to get back ahead of the pack.”

The Jets haven’t done much to inspire confidence among their fans, who have seen their erratic rookie quarterback Geno Smith make game-changing mistakes some weeks and game-winning plays in others.

The normally solid defense has also been inconsistent at times, particularly in the secondary, which has contributed to the Jets being ranked 23rd against the pass.

“We all know that our secondary is very talented and that wasn’t their best performance,” Wilkerson said of allowing a handful of big passing plays against Buffalo. “But I’m pretty sure the rest of the season, we’re going to get their best.”

New York is still No. 1 against the run, and the outstanding play of Wilkerson is a major reason.

“As a defense, we know we’ve got to get the ball back to the offense,” said Wilkerson, who has eight sacks. “They may struggle sometimes and we do have a rookie quarterback, but we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do to get the ball back. We can’t have the mental mistakes and breakdowns that we’ve been having during this roller-coaster season.

“These last six games, we’ve got to pretty much be as perfect as we can.”

Added Richardson: “We’ve got to fight with our backs against the wall. But hey, we fight better that way, anyway.”

Wilkerson, along with Richardson and Santonio Holmes, spent Tuesday night at the Elizabeth Fire Department handing out turkeys and large boxes filled with dinner sides to families from the Oakwood Plaza Apartments — where Wilkerson lived until his family moved to nearby Linden when he was about 11 years old.

“It means a lot,” Wilkerson said, adding that his grandmother still lives there. “Being born and raised right across the street, this is like home to me. It’s like a tribute to everybody who helped out in some way, somehow.”

Wilkerson, Holmes and Richardson also posed for pictures with people from the community and local firefighters for more than an hour.

“Words can’t express how I feel right now, just to help out people for this holiday,” Wilkerson said. “Some of those people that were in line were great friends and family members, so it’s great to help them out.”


AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

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