GREEN BAY – There’s a new defensive lineman in town.
The Packers signed former Jets first-round pick Muhammad Wilkerson this week, bolstering a defensive line already set to return Pro Bowler Mike Daniels, Kenny Clark and Dean Lowry next season.
Wilkerson, 28, has recorded 405 tackles with 44½ sacks and 10 forced fumbles in 105 career NFL games over seven seasons. Here are five things to know about the Packers’ new defensive end:
1. Wilkerson has a Pettine connection
Wilkerson got his first taste of the NFL in Mike Pettine’s defense with the Jets. The 6-foot-4, 315-pounder recorded 118 tackles, eight sacks and a safety during their two seasons together in New York. Pettine was a big fan of Wilkerson coming out of Temple. He lauded Wilkerson for his intelligence, instincts and overall football aptitude after the Jets drafted him with the 30th pick in 2011. Explaining how Wilkerson fits into his scheme, Pettine told the New York Daily News in 2012: “He can be a dominant inside rusher on third down and a dominant defensive end on early downs.”
2. He’s been a workhorse on the defensive front
Few defensive linemen have played as many snaps as Wilkerson has during his first seven NFL seasons. His career-high 1,039 snaps in 2013 accounted for nearly 95 percent of the Jets’ defensive total and ranked fourth in the NFL, according to FootballOutsiders.com. Even when hampered by injuries in recent years, Wilkerson missed only seven games over his seven seasons with the Jets, providing across-the-line versatility.
3. He has an All-Pro pedigree
Wilkerson is a two-time second-team All-Pro (2013, 2015) and was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2015 after registering 64 tackles and 12 sacks, the most by a Jets defensive lineman since Shaun Ellis’ 12½ in 2003. He had at least three sacks in each of his seven seasons with the Jets and also eclipsed the 10-sack threshold in 2013 with 10½. Entering the 2017 season, his 41 sacks were the second-most in the league among defensive players weighing more than 300 pounds.
4. He shares a Jersey connection with Daniels
The first thing Wilkerson did after signing with the Packers was direct a tweet at fellow New Jersey native Daniels. A native of Linden, N.J., Wilkerson grew up about an hour away from Daniels’ hometown of Blackwood.
5. His road to the pros was all East Coast
Wilkerson played both defensive end and tight end at Linden High School. He won an AAU basketball national championship before also playing in high school. Wilkerson attended Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va., for one year before enrolling at Temple in 2008. He appeared in 36 games for the Owls, finishing his career with 144 tackles (26 for a loss), 17½ sacks and 11 passes defensed. He majored in business administration.