Jets defensive line has makings of second ‘Sack Exchange’

Muhammad WIlkerson and the Jets bothered E.J. Manuel all game long. Credit: Getty Images
Muhammad Wilkerson has already developed a fearsome reputation on the defensive line.
Credit: Getty Images

It could well be the second coming of the “New York Sack Exchange,” but the Jets defensive line isn’t ready to start talking boldly quite yet. It just wants to play that way.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, there wasn’t a more-feared defensive front in the NFL than Mark Gastineau, Joe Klecko, Marty Lyons and Abdul Salaam. Now the Jets have another defensive front that is starting to become a feared unit with Muhammad Wilkerson, Quinton Coples and Sheldon Richardson forming the foundation.

They are young, fast and aggressive — just like the original “Sack Exchange.”

“We hope to be [as good as them]. We’re all young. We’re all young and talented and I hope we can play some ball for the next couple years together. We haven’t even scratched the surface, the sky is the limit for us. We just have to put in the hard work,” Wilkerson told Metro. “We can’t even compare ourselves to those guys. Those guys were unbelievable back then and it was different. At the end of the day, I’m aware of what those guys did and how high they set the bar and how we should want to work to be like them. It should make us want to be better.”

The cornerstone of this franchise might well be the defensive line, especially with all the question marks on the offensive side of the ball. Over the past three years, the Jets have invested three first-round picks along the defensive line. All three can get to the quarterback and all three are versatile players who can play inside or outside.

The trademark of the Jets under head coach Rex Ryan has always been the defense, but for much of his time here it has been a secondary that featured All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis in addition to Antonio Cromartie, arguably a Top-5 cornerback himself. Now, the defensive line could be the cornerstone of the Jets for years to come.

“We have some very talented guys we put some high picks into,” Ryan said last week. “Like I said, we have three first-round picks in a row in that defensive line and every one of them are hits. That bodes well for us moving forward.”

It is a young unit. Besides Wilkerson, Coples and Richardson, third-year nose tackle Kenrick Ellis was taken in the third round and Damon Harrison is in his second year as an undrafted rookie free agent who has stepped into a starting role this season.

Unlike the original “Sack Exchange,” this current version runs a three-man front which will generate less of a pass rush than a more traditional four-man front. But through four games, the Jets defense is tied for third in the league with 14 sacks.

Wilkerson already has three sacks while rookie Richardson has 1 1/2 sacks. The production from the end positions is a luxury for the defense as they can drop the linebackers into coverage more effectively instead of having to blitz to create a pass rush. The play of the line is also opening things up for Calvin Pace and Antwan Barnes to make plays behind the line from the linebacker position.

For a franchise very much reshaping its identity, it may have found it along the defensive front.

“I’m a rookie but we most definitely have the potential to be the face of the organization, repaying the faith they put in us. They went out and got us and now they’re getting production,” Richardson said. “Rex has told us about them, that the media is saying how we’re the ‘New Sack Exchange’ and this and that but he’s encouraged us to be humble and keep working at it. Make our own name.”

Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

US military tried, but failed to rescue journalist…

The U.S. military earlier this year tried to rescue journalist James Foley and other American hostages held in Syria ,but failed to find the captives.

National

Fate of captured beluga whales in hands of…

A Georgia aquarium went to court on Wednesday seeking federal permission to bring 18 captured beluga whales to the United States from Russia.

Local

After Eric Garner death, religious leaders meet to…

Interfaith leaders convened with city officials to discuss what the community can do to help dial down heightened tensions after Eric Garner's death.

Local

'Suspicious' Hamilton Heights fire caused by power strip:…

An extension cord overload caused the deadly fire in Hamilton Heights late Monday that killed a 15-year-old girl and injured at least 12 others.

Television

Billy Crystal to commemorate late actor Robin Williams…

  Comedian Billy Crystal will pay tribute to late actor Robin Williams at television's Primetime Emmy Awards on Aug. 25, the show's organizers said on…

Going Out

Things to do this week in NYC, Aug.…

GAMES Hudson Common Open Aug. 21, 7 p.m. Hudson Common 356 W. 58 St. Free, www.hudsoncommonnyc.com The U.S. Open begins on Monday, but most of…

Movies

Review: Sadly, Matthew Weiner's 'Are You Here' is…

"Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner tries his hand at movies with "Are You Here," a misjudged Owen Wilson-Zach Galifianakis comedy that turns into a drama.

Movies

Review: 'Love is Strange' is not only a…

John Lithgow and Alfred Molina tie the knot in "Love is Strange," but the film winds up being more about living with people than an activist picture.

NFL

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL defense (DEF)

NFL

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL quarterbacks (QB)

MLB

Shane Greene travels unlikely road to Yankees stardom

Shane Greene was throwing a bullpen session on a quiet field at Daytona Beach Community College one day when the ball started moving.

NFL

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL tight ends (TE)

Sex

Online dating for every generation

Frank Jackson and his mother Maggie are like lots of modern families: They have dinner together regularly, keep each other updated on their lives —…

Wellbeing

Going green could be the key to getting…

If we could just pursue the things that would actually make us happy, we could help the environment too, according to a New York researcher.…

Wellbeing

Metabolic syndrome could have a sugar link

Scientists in St. Louis may have found another culprit in metabolic syndrome, which can lead to heart disease and type 2 diabetes.  Uric acid is…

Wellbeing

Another way stress hurts your unborn baby

Mothers know to try staying calm during pregnancy, as stress has been linked to behavioral and developmental problems for their babies. But now, a new…