Muhammad Wilkerson signed with the Green Bay Packers this offseason in free agency in what could be one of the biggest steals of the year. He used to be considered one of the most lethal defensive pass rushers in the NFL but has fallen off over the past couple of years. Despite the struggles that he has had recently, the Packers believe that they are getting a new star for their defensive line.
Looking ahead to the 2018 NFL season, Wilkerson will be facing some pressure. He is reuniting with defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, who coached him during the best stage of his career, and the pressure is on for Wilkerson to prove once again that he is capable of anchoring a defense.
Bleacher Report currently has him as sitting on the “hottest seat” in Green Bay for any player or coach.
“Wilkerson’s unceremonious New York exit likely dried up his offers on the open market. Based on the reports about his lapses off the field, don’t expect the Packers to provide a long leash at a strong position. Wilkerson will see a rotational role up front, and he must put forth maximum effort with limited snaps. A lack of effort would bury him on the depth chart or put him back on the search for a job elsewhere.”
Last season with the New York Jets, Wilkerson ended up recording 46 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and an interception. Back in 2015, however, Wilkerson was one of the most feared defenders in the NFL. He racked up 64 total tackles to go along with 12.0 sacks and two forced fumbles.
At 28-years-old, Green Bay is giving Wilkerson a second chance in the NFL. They are hoping that things in New York simply weren’t a good fit for the 6-foot-4, 315-pound defensive end. If Wilkerson is able to get back to what made him so good in 2015, the Packers’ defense got a lot scarier for 2018.
It will be interesting to see what role Pettine decides to place Wilkerson in this year. Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark are the two main cornerstone pieces for the Green Bay defensive line and Wilkerson could end up being asked to play a much bigger role than the article clip above is expecting.
Only time will tell whether Wilkerson will be the major help that the Packers are hoping he can be. New general manager Brian Gutekunst took a much more aggressive approach to free agency than Ted Thompson used to and it could pay off in a big way with Wilkerson.
All of that being said, the article is correct that Green Bay will have a short leash with Wilkerson. If he gets back to taking plays off and not leaving everything on the field, Pettine and Mike McCarthy will cut his playing time quickly.
Expect to see Wilkerson come out with a chip on his shoulder ready to prove that he is still capable of being a major playmaker for an NFL defense. He is on a one-year deal with the chance to prove himself and he will do everything in his power to earn a bigger contract next offseason.