It's been said fairly frequently that the Jets have drafted with beating the Patriots in mind for several years.
That hasn't worked out particularly well over the years. The Jets took Vernon Gholston at least partially because the Patriots were putting out word that they wanted to draft him and Jeremy Kerley's the closest thing to an impact player that's been drafted in the last three years.
Change could be coming, however. Muhammad Wilkerson has been the team's best player in the front seven through the first six weeks of the season and we're starting to see the impact that the 2011 first-round pick can have on an offensive line.
According to Pro Football Focus, Wilkerson has been the second best 3-4 defensive end against the run behind J.J. Watt. Since Watt is having the kind of a season that players dream about, placing second is nothing to sneeze at and it bodes very well for the weeks to come.
For this week, Wilkerson is vital because the Jets are going to need to keep the Patriots running game in check in order to keep New England from simply rolling down the field with their no-huddle offense. It will be especially important if the Jets fall behind and the Patriots try to run the clock out by keeping the ball on the ground as they did in last year's game at Foxborough.
Wilkerson doesn't do much to stop the pass, but that's where the other two recent first-round picks come into play. Quinton Coples got his first start against the Colts last week and came up with 1.5 sacks as the defensive end across from Wilkerson.
Coples has been pretty much as advertised thus far with great physical skills and a questionable ability to pick up the mental side of the game. If he can pick up the learning curve, he's the kind of player that can pop up all over the defensive front and give Brady a hard time figuring out exactly what the Jets defense is planning to do.
And then there's Kyle Wilson, thrust into a starting role when Darrelle Revis was injured and now playing the role of guy most likely to be targeted by every opposing quarterback for the rest of the season. Wilson's play when the ball is in the air has been abysmal thus far and he's just going to keep getting attacked as long as Antonio Cromartie is playing well at the other corner.
Wilson needs to make plays, especially this weekend when the Jets are going to have matchup issues all over the field. If the Jets are going to get any pass rush on Brady, they're going to need to bring an extra body or two and that's going to put the spotlight on Wilson.
If this trio can handle their business, the Jets will have a shot to pull off the upset on Sunday. They'll also be in much better shape in the future, something that will be a good thing even if the Patriots win in a rout.