Arguably no player in New York Jets training camp is more important to the Jets’ success than second-year man Quinton Coples, the Jets’ 2012 first-round draft pick who is expected to take a big leap forward in year two.
As a rookie, Coples was only on the field for 47% of the Jets’ defensive snaps last season. But if Rex Ryan can get what he wants to get out of Coples in 2013, that number is sure to rise and it could even end up doubling.
The 6’6, 285-lb Coples turns just 23 in June, and Ryan’s excited about the versatility he can bring to the table, especially when Coples lines up alongside Muhammad Wilkerson and versatile rookie Sheldon Richardson.
It certainly raised some eyebrows when the Jets announced that Coples will be playing more snaps at the rush linebacker position this year, but it wasn’t surprising to Coples. He knew this hybrid role was the plan all along.
“I think it’s going to be great,” Coples said, about the opportunity to not only line up all around the defensive line, but also stand up as an edge rusher. “I’m looking forward to this. It’s going to open up opportunities for me.”
The plan to use Coples as a true hybrid lineman/linebacker was first hatched at Coples’ Pro Day in June 2012, when Ryan worked him through a vigorous workout that included lineman drills and linebacker drills as well.
“I think Rex put this [switch to outside linebacker] in mind when he went to my Pro Day,” Coples said. “I think that was his mindset from the beginning. Last year was a trial year.”
And what a trial year it was.
Despite not being on the field for even half of the Jets’ total defensive snaps, Coples led the team with 5.5 sacks. The Jets believe he has the pure pass rush ability that defies conventional wisdom about where he should line up.
The Jets believe Coples is talented enough that if he works hard and stays disciplined, he can emerge as an every-down matchup nightmare for opposing offenses. He’s not afraid to line up at the rush linebacker spot.
“It’s not like I’d be in one-on-one man coverage with somebody all the time,” Coples stated.
But on those 10% of plays where he might be asked to run with a tight end or running back in space? Coples and the Jets aren’t afraid of that either. Rex Ryan believes Coples can handle anything teams try to throw his way.
“It just depends on whatever they do at the end of the day,” he said. “I know my responsibility and if I have to lock them up man-to-man, and if he goes 30 yards down the field? Then [I’ll go] 30 yards down the field with him.”
As for the official primary position Coples is expected to play? Defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman simply refers to big #98 as a “hybrid.” Where will he line up? That’s a question for opposing offenses to answer.
“There are different packages that we have still where I put my hand down, but overall I’ll be in disguise,” Coples said. “Some packages I’m a D-end, and some packages I’m an outside linebacker. It just depends.”
One thing’s for certain. You’re probably going to want to keep your eye on #98, no matter where he lines up.
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