Film Review: Muhammad Wilkerson

Green Bay’s two best defensive players a season ago were unequivocally Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark. Both players were consistently good throughout the entirety of the year and both should be the odds on favorites to be the two best players on the defensive side of the football again in 2018.

That being said, both Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark wore down as the season went on. Neither played a ridiculous number of snaps (684 for Clark, 629 for Daniels) but you could tell both were wearing down physically as the season progressed.

You could also tell in certain games that in clutch situations, Daniels and Clark just didn’t have their legs left towards the end of the game. Mike Daniels had eight games in which he played over 50 snaps while Clark had five.  When you’re a defensive lineman in the trenches playing 50+ snaps a game it makes it very difficult to be fresh at the end when the game’s on the line.

Enter eighth year veteran Muhammad Wilkerson. At 6-4, 315 pounds, Wilkerson is exactly what Green Bay needs to add a physical defensive presence to the interior of the defensive line. His presence will ultimately allow Kenny Clark and Mike Daniels some much needed rest so they can play their best when it’s needed most. With the signing of Wilkerson, Green Bay now has an impressive trio of players to backup Clark and Daniels. Wilkerson, Dean Lowry, and Montravius Adams have the ability to make a formidable rotation and these five defensive linemen together should be able to control the opposing teams’ run game and be disruptive in the passing game.

Today we’re going to take a look at what Muhammad Wilkerson can bring to the table, and how much of a force he can be in the interior of the defensive line.

Before I jump into the tape, let me say this about the signing of Wilkerson. There could not be a better deal under better circumstances than Wilkerson’s deal with Green Bay. Wilkerson was a true dominant interior player from 2012-2015. In 2016 his play dropped off significantly and in 2017 he was solid but unspectacular.

It’s very easy to correlate Wilkerson’s struggles with the struggles that the Jets had, and the struggles he had with the Jets. Wilkerson and the Jets have had an official relationship of “it’s complicated” for some time now. There have been off field issues, contract disputes, tardiness on Wilkerson’s part and an overall relationship that has soured over time. Both sides knew it was time for a divorce and Wilkerson was eager to find a new NFL soulmate.

What Green Bay is able to offer Wilkerson is everything he was missing with the Jets. An aggressive, WWE style smack talker to motivate him in Mike Daniels, a MVP contender in Aaron Rodgers, a competitive football team with a chance to make the playoffs every year, and a defensive coordinator in Mike Pettine who Wilkerson had the best years of his career under. This was quite simply the perfect match for Wilkerson.

On Green Bay’s end there is a lot to like about this deal as well. As mentioned above, Wilkerson’s play has slipped but it’s not hard to imagine him turning his play back on with a change of scenery and a winning culture. Green Bay also protected themselves and gave Wilkerson even more incentive by basically giving him a one-year prove it deal. Wilkerson will make a fairly modest $5,000,000.00 this year and will have to show he’s back to his old self if he wants to cash in during next years’ free agency period. If Wilkerson has a reawakening season this year, he could find himself some serious money on the free agent market at age 29.

So we know this seems to be a perfect fit on paper, but just what can Wilkerson bring to the table? Wilkerson is a powerful player who when he’s at his best is using his long arms and hands to engage offensive linemen and then quickly disengage when he’s ready to make the play. He holds up well at the point of attack and when he’s right has a quicker first step than should be possible at his size. He generally has good gap containment and is very difficult to run on. He’s more of a secondary pass rusher but can surprise with his first step and can overpower smaller guards. He also does a nice job of batting down passes and using his size and arm length when he doesn’t get to the quarterback.

Run Defense/Strength at Point of Attack

Quickness/Agility

Hand Usage/Arm Length

Pass Deflections

On the flip side, Wilkerson doesn’t have a ton of holes in his game athletically but doesn’t always play with 100% effort and seemed disinterested at times over the past two seasons. While he’s had the 10 sack seasons in his career, those days seem to be behind Wilkerson as he’s not the explosive playmaker he once was. If you’re expecting him to get close to those double digit sack numbers again you will likely be left wanting.

The biggest thing for Wilkerson is keeping him motivated. That shouldn’t be an issue in Green Bay this year and if the coaching staff and players can keep Wilkerson hungry, they may have found themselves a steal with Wilkerson. Wilkerson’s best use will be on early downs and obvious run plays where he can spell Daniels and Clark and allow those two to be playmakers when Green Bay needs them most.

Listen to previous Friday Film Room sessions here: https://soundcloud.com/andy-herman-596646919

Make sure to tune in Friday’s at 9:50am on WDUZ: http://www.thefan1075.com/

__________________________

Andy is a graduate of UW-Oshkosh and owns & operates the Pack-A-Day Podcast. Andy has taken multiple courses in NFL scouting and is an Editor for Packer Report. You can find him on WFRV's Green Bay Nation and every Friday on the Friday Film Room on WDUZ . Andy grew up in Green Bay and is a lifelong season ticket holder - follow him on Twitter @AndyHermanNFL!

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Comments (10)

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Spock's picture

June 14, 2018 at 07:50 pm

Andy, Your film breakdown articles are always my favorites. I like that you emphasize that we Packer fans temper our enthusiasm, but if big Mo is motivated to play his best this year it will be fun to watch!

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Nononsense's picture

June 14, 2018 at 08:00 pm

Love his ability to stack and shed in the middle but I like him even more at end. He's got great hand usage and is quicker than any 300 plus lb. man should be. Hope to see him out there opposite Perry at LE quiet a bit.

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The TKstinator's picture

June 14, 2018 at 10:45 pm

Or loud. Either way, just make the play.

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Tundraboy's picture

June 14, 2018 at 10:17 pm

Can't wait, Can't wait, Can't wait.

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Bure9620's picture

June 14, 2018 at 10:24 pm

Very nice breakdown. What I have always liked about Wilkerson is his length, yes his arms, but more his overall length, arms through torso. Mo also knows how to use his length in leverage battles. He can mess with guards by holding the point of attack and then quickly disengaging. By this time, hes already underneath the guard with his length and its over, he's inside.

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croatpackfan's picture

June 15, 2018 at 06:05 am

Another well rounded analysis Andy. Thank you!

I hope if Mo gets lost in speed, he will make up for speed with his experience ...

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PackEyedOptimist's picture

June 15, 2018 at 07:20 am

Even if Wilkerson ends up being average, and therefore a disappointment, we still have an ascending DE in Lowry. Hopefully, we will see plays from Adams as well.

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Doug_In_Sandpoint's picture

June 15, 2018 at 08:30 am

"Wilkerson was born to be a Packer, picking off Jay Cutler came naturally to him."

This cracked me up this morning. Very excited about Mo. Is it September yet?

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Koosh's picture

June 15, 2018 at 02:19 pm

Wilkersons best use will be to spell a starter?....not be a starter himself!?

We just gonna run a 2-3-3-3 D 90% of the time?

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LambeauPlain's picture

June 16, 2018 at 09:20 am

Expect as much 4 man D line fronts as the 3 or 2 man fronts Capers exclusively relied on.

Pettine loves to confuse and pressure the QB from all over the field.

Gonna be fun...

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