For a team that has struggled to get after the quarterback in years past, it certainly raised some eyebrows when the New York Jets decided to once again forgo selecting a primary edge rusher in this year’s NFL draft.
Perhaps it’ll raise even more eyebrows when Rex Ryan reveals what he’s got in store for Quinton Coples.
Ryan and the Jets couldn’t believe their luck when the 6’6, 285-lb Coples fell into their laps with the 16th pick of the 2012 NFL Draft, and the 22-year-old didn’t disappoint, registering a team-best 5.5 sacks in his rookie season.
While Ryan worked him into the defense slowly and deliberately as a rookie, (Coples was only on the field for 47% of the Jets’ total defensive snaps in 2012) you can definitely expect to see a lot more from Coples in 2013.
The Jets will experiment with playing the second-year man at outside linebacker in 2013, as it will enable the Jets to get Coples, Muhammad Wilkerson, and Sheldon Richardson all on the field together in different capacities.
We may even see Coples all over the field, unlike many men his size, as Ryan gets set to use the versatile pass rusher as his new-age version of Adalius Thomas, who Ryan’s familiar with from his Baltimore Ravens days.
Thomas, who was listed at 6’2, 270 lbs during his playing days, once famously said about his unique ability to play wherever the Ravens asked him, ”I don’t have a preferred position. Whatever is needed of me, I do.”
For Thomas, that meant lining up all over the defensive line, all over the linebacking corps and anywhere else the Ravens could use him in their defensive scheme, and it often times made life miserable for opposing offenses.
Coples played most of his snaps on the interior of the defensive line last year, where offensive guards struggled to handle his athleticism. But the big man also lined up outside and had success against tackles, too.
It might sound crazy to many outsiders that Quinton Coples will play the rush linebacker role for the Jets at times, but there’s a method to the madness. Rex Ryan knew exactly what Coples was capable of when he scouted him.
As I mentioned on my weekly Jets podcast, Rex Ryan knows a thing or two about defensive schemes, and how players will fit into them. It would be foolish to say that Coples (or Richardson) “doesn’t fit” in Ryan’s schemes.
The Jets won’t play a standard 3-4 or 4-3 defensive front. They’ll play multiple looks that go beyond a standard label. The freaky versatility of Coples, Wilkerson and Richardson will be a huge (no pun intended) part of it.
Ryan and the Jets will likely field a top-10 defense again in 2013, and perhaps that’s a bit conservative of an estimation. Football fans everywhere are in for a treat when they see the tricks that Ryan has up his sleeves.