The next player to appear in our ranking of the New York Jets’ top 25 players is someone the Jets wish was much higher on the list. Outside linebacker Quinton Coples has shown a lot of promise since being drafted in the first round in 2012, but he has yet to put it all together and become the dominant edge rusher the Jets so badly need. As he heads into his third season, the Jets are counting on Coples to take a huge step forward.
Coples played as a defensive end in the Jets’ 3-4 scheme as a rookie, recording 5.5 sacks and providing solid defense against the run. However, the Jets chose to move him to outside linebacker last season, and Coples was only able to record 4.5 sacks. He missed the first two games of the season with an ankle injury and wasn’t fully healthy until later in the season, which hampered his ability to make the challenging adjustment from end to linebacker. However, he did record 3.5 of his sacks over the final five games, a stretch of productivity that showed he was getting comfortable with his new position.
Going forward, it is crucial that Coples be the player he was at the end of the season. The Jets can’t reasonably expect Calvin Pace to deliver another 10 sack season at age 34, and Antwan Barnes is coming off a torn ACL. The front three is excellent, but the Jets still need a top flight edge rusher at outside linebacker. The Jets are not going to be able to blitz as much as Rex Ryan would like because they need to protect their young cornerbacks, so it is vital to be able to get a consistent pass rush without having to scheme for it. The Jets drafted Coples in the first round to provide that pass rushing threat, and if he becomes a double digit sack artist then the defense will be much better off.
Coples has been productive early in his career, and a full offseason under his belt at outside linebacker should make a big difference. His third season is not make or break in the typical sense, because it is clear Coples will be a useful player for years to come. However, it is time to find out whether he will just be an average player or the star the Jets thought they were drafting. Until we know the answer, Coples can’t be ranked much higher than this.