Jets DE Muhammad Wilkerson has become more of a vocal leader this season as he has taken it upon himself to fill that void in the locker room.
Linebacker David Harris was the voice in the Jets' locker room for years. Now that he is gone, Wilkerson is the next man in line and he is embracing the new role.
"I've been here for a long time now," Wilkerson told The Post's Brian Costello, "I always looked up to older guys who are no longer here. I stepped into the footsteps into being a leader. I wasn't vocal [before], but I've always been a leader on this team. David Harris isn't here anymore, so I took it upon myself to speak up more and get out of my comfort zone."
That leadership was on display before the Jets' preseason opener against the Lions where Wilkerson gave a pre-game speech to get the team fired up. Defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers says it is the 28-year-old's biggest improvement from last season.
"The thing that's really stood out is his leadership," Rodgers said. "He's the guy that's calling the team up. He's the guy that's encouraging people to come together and do this. But the stuff he's doing on the field, I'm really pleased with where he is right now."
Wilkerson isn't afraid to call out his team if they are slacking as well. He stopped practice and brought the team up at midfield during training camp to tell them to pick up the effort.
"There were two weeks straight we came off a day off and kind of had a lackadaisical practice," Wilkerson said. "I just told the guys we've got the pads on, it's a work day. ... If the pads are on, we have to come out here and work. We can't just put a day in."
"As far as we're concerned, the Jets didn't play last year. It's a new team. We've got to make sure we put a good effort in each day competing amongst ourselves to prepare ourselves for the season."
Much like most of the Jets last season, Wilkerson had an off season due to his surgically repaired ankle that consistently bothered him throughout the year. However, that is in the past and he is looking to live up to his five year, $86 million contract the Jets gave him a season ago.
And though he is still young, being a leader on and off the field is an aspect of his game that he knows he must execute.
"It's part of this business," Wilkerson said. "That's what comes with this game. I'm one of the older guys that have been around for long time here. It's kind of my job and my duty."