DT Muhammad Wilkerson Makes Temple History, Now a New York Jet

DT Muhammad Wilkerson Makes Temple History, Now a New York Jet

"With the thirtieth pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, the New York Jets select Muhammad Wilkerson, Defensive Tackle, Temple University."
It's been twenty-four years since Temple University alumni could relish hearing their alma mater's name called in the first round. Not since Paul Palmer was shattering program rushing records and finishing runner-up to Vinny Testeverde in the 1987 Heisman voting has a "][" shown up so high in the draft.

Prior to the big day, Muhammad Wilkerson peaked as high as tenth on Mel Kiper's constantly fluctuating "Big Board." Once he was officially announced twenty spots beneath said position, Kiper would take the opportunity to label the 6'5, 305-pound defensive lineman "The Steal of the First Round."

Predicted by most draft prognosticators to go toward the end of the Thursday night's draft opener, one of the knocks against "Big Mo'" has been the MAC's national reputation as an admittedly weak conference. The suggestion that his 70 tackles and team-high 9.5 sacks in 2010 were accordingly inflated is therefore somewhat justified; but, only for those who haven't actually seen Muhammad in person. Those familiar with the now-former Owl will know that many of his strongest performances came against some Temple's toughest opponents. Amongst another examples, his sideline-to-sideline, fumble-forcing, offensive-line-obliterating effort against the Nittany Lions in Happy Valley this past season speaks to just such a sentiment. Whether under, over, or appropriately valued, Wilkerson is now more than likely unconcerned. A first round contract for millions of dollars with one of, if not the best defense in football should squash any lingering issues of the sort.

Assuming the players and owners can agree to a new CBA for 2011 and give football fans the benefit of enjoying the product they overwhelmingly finance, Wilkerson is set to bolster an already vaunted New York Jet defensive unit. Led by head coach and unabashed media whore Rex Ryan, the Jets finished the 2010 regular season third in total team defense, a quality follow up to a 2009 campaign in which they led the league in the same statistic. Digging a bit deeper, NYJ finished eighth in the NFL in 2010 with forty sacks, but only twenty-fifth in interceptions nabbed with twelve.

Adding Wilkerson to the D-line only figures to improve their already impressive secondary and potentially boost those INT totals by forcing opposing quarterbacks to think quick and act even quicker when throwing against pro-bowl defensive backs Darelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, an always dicey proposition. 

Although rooting for the Jets is somewhat of an unappealing prospect, the thought of a Temple grad standing over a grounded Tom Brady is more than enough to overlook the rest of the team's still unjustified pomposity. Moreover, should the Jets finally live up coach Ryan's overbearing self-promotion and actually win a Super Bowl, a certainly legitimate possibility, Wilkerson could very well join fellow Owl Raheem Brock as a Temple grad with a very big ring.

Rounds two and three of the NFL Draft kickoff at 6p.m. Friday evening. TU defensive back Jaiquawn Jarrett remains available and has been slotted to go anywhere from the second through fourth rounds. With a clear need for help in their own secondary, could we see the Eagles take a chance on a local kid? One thing is for sure, he would at least know his way around the Linc.

Best of NBA: Dwyane Wade hits dagger 3-pointer in Bulls debut

Best of NBA: Dwyane Wade hits dagger 3-pointer in Bulls debut

CHICAGO -- Dwyane Wade scored 22 points in a triumphant Chicago debut, Jimmy Butler had 24 and the Bulls won their season opener, beating the Boston Celtics 105-99 on Thursday night.

Wade nailed a 3 from the corner in the final minute to make it a five-point game. Taj Gibson added 18 points and 10 rebounds, and the new-look Bulls got off to a winning start after missing the playoffs last season for the first time since 2008.

Isaiah Thomas led Boston with 25 points. Avery Bradley had 16, and Jae Crowder 14 points, but the Celtics came up short after opening with a win over Brooklyn the previous night.

The Bulls remade their roster in the offseason, jettisoning one hometown superstar and welcoming another when they traded Derrick Rose to New York and signed Wade to a two-year deal worth about $47 million in a move that stunned Miami.

The three-time NBA champion and 12-time All-Star is off to a good start with the Bulls after 13 seasons with the Heat.

Wade hit 4 of 6 3-pointers in this game after making just seven all of last season (see full recap).

New-look Hawks roll past Wizards
ATLANTA -- Dwight Howard dominated the boards in his Atlanta debut, Paul Millsap scored 28 points and Tim Hardaway Jr. ignited the new-look Hawks to a 114-99 victory over the Washington Wizards in their season opener Thursday night.

Howard grabbed 19 rebounds to go along with 11 points, just what the Hawks expected from their new center, and it certainly wasn't unusual for three-time All-Star Millsap to lead the way in scoring.

But Hardaway's performance was totally unexpected given the way he struggled in his first season with the Hawks, when he was largely confined to the bench and even forced to spend time in the D-League.

He scored 21 points, matching his high in an Atlanta uniform, and broke open a close game with back-to-back 3-pointers in the fourth. The Hawks, who led only 81-80 heading to the final period, outscored the Wizards 33-19 over the final 12 minutes (see full recap).

Best of NHL: Canadiens rally past Lightning for 6th straight win

Best of NHL: Canadiens rally past Lightning for 6th straight win

MONTREAL -- Max Pacioretty scored the tiebreaking goal in Montreal's three-goal third period as the Canadiens beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-1 Thursday night for their sixth straight win.

Alex Galchenyuk and Torrey Mitchell also scored to help Montreal improve to 7-0-1. Carey Price made 29 saves to win for the fourth time in four starts this season.

Alex Killorn scored the lone goal for the Lightning, who lost against an Eastern-Conference opponent for the first time this season. Ben Bishop stopped 23 shots.

With the scored tied 1-1, Pacioretty got the go-ahead goal at 10:23 by beating Bishop glove-side. Blown coverage by the Lightning left the Canadiens' captain all alone on the edge of the face-off circle, and Bishop couldn't see the shot with Andrew Shaw posted firmly in front of goal.

Montreal remains the only NHL team still undefeated in regulation (see full recap).

Crosby's late goal gives Penguins win over Islanders
PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby scored the tiebreaking goal late in the third period to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 4-2 victory over the New York Islanders on Thursday night.

Patric Hornqvist, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel also scored -- each getting his third of the season -- to help the Penguins win for the third time in four games and improve to 5-0-1 at home.

Crosby, playing for the second straight game after missing the first six with a concussion, scored with 2:25 left as he caught a pass from Scott Wilson at the top of the crease and quickly turned to his forehand to put the puck behind Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak.

Kessel added a power-play goal to cap the scoring 32 seconds later.

Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 35 shots while starting for the eighth straight game.

Travis Hamonic and Shane Prince scored for the Islanders, and Halak finished with 31 saves (see full recap).

Streaking Red Wings win marathon shootout vs. Blues
ST. LOUIS -- Henrik Zetterberg scored in the eighth round of a shootout to give the Detroit Red Wings a 2-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night.

Zetterberg's goal gave the Red Wings a six-game winning streak.

In the shootout, St. Louis' first shooter, Alexander Steen, scored but then Vladimir Tarasenko, Kevin Shattenkirk, David Perron, Nail Yakupoc, Robby Fabbri, Patrick Burgland and Dmitrjij Jaskin all came up short.

Gustav Nyquist scored on Detroit's second attempt but Frans Nielsen, Dylan Larkin, Andreas Athanasiou, Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheehan and Darren Helm all missed.

St. Louis had the better chances in overtime. Center Jaden Schwartz missed a wide-open net early in the extra session. Jori Lehtera was stopped on a breakaway midway through the period by Detroit goalie Petr Mrazek (see full recap).