As most Jets fans were, I was very excited for the thought of Melvin Ingram to the Jets at pick 16. When Bruce Irvin went to the Seahawks, I became really excited over having Ingram become a Jet. However, true to form, the Jets do the opposite of what everyone expects and chose Quinton Coples from UNC instead.
My immediate reaction was “Are they kidding? Same old Jets!” However, once I had a chance to cool down, I started to weigh the pros and cons and I think most people at the end of Coples and Ingram’s career will see that Coples will have more of an impact in NFL than Ingram. Of course, I think Ingram is going to be a stud at outside linebacker, but he has his flaws. His short arms will hurt him versus bigger tackles with long arms. He has a great motor, but will get frustrated, like he did at South Carolina, when he cannot penetrate through the line to get to the quarterback. Getting double teamed because the Chargers do not have a great pass rush is going to frustrate him and hold him back. His hips are very tight and needs to learn to play man to man coverage versus more agile tight ends and sometimes, running backs. There’s a reason he dropped to 18th overall. There’s also a reason Coples dropped out of the top 5 and eventually into the Jets lap. Coples reasons can be fixed, Ingram’s will unfortunately be the same problem for his entire career.
As shown in Rookie Camp this past weekend, Coples has a natural ability that is something the Jets haven’t had since John Abraham…a defensive player with a nose for the quarterback. He was in the backfield on most offensive plays during drills. His size and speed help him bull rush, his quick feet allow him to spin and maneuver around slower offensive linemen and he’s always around the quarterback. On Day 1, Rex was quoted saying that Coples had “at least 6 sacks.” Granted it was against rookies, not the seasoned veterans of the Steelers or Patriots offensive line but its a start. In fact, he was so dominant Rex kept him out of drills on Day 2 to “give other guys a chance to get a look”…A.K.A. see the offense complete plays and have some success. Coples was disrupting play after play, getting sacks, and knocking down passes. Anyone who watched his “Sport Science” video can see his ability to leave his feet to knock down passes is one of the best elements of his game.
How often have the Jets knocked down passes from quarterbacks that dump off to running backs or little “gnat” receivers like Welker? The answer: not even once a game.
Coples is a physical specimen. 6’6″ 285 lbs with long arms, extremely strong and athletic. He had only 7.5 sacks his senior year on a team that struggled, but totaled up nearly 23.5 sacks in his collegiate career. Teams were well aware of Coples’ pass rushing ability and he was double teamed often. Teams also ran plays away from him. Watching tape, a lot of his 7.5 sacks were when he ran across the formation to get the quarterback booting out. In addition to what other teams did against him, North Carolina went through a lot of adversity last year, losing Butch Davis and obtaining a major bruise on their program. Coples has said publicly that Butch Davis was one of the best mentors in his life. Not having him there during his senior year weighed down on Coples. This was seen by the media as “quitting on his team” and “having a bad work ethic.” Trust me when I say, this will NOT happen while he’s in a Jets uniform. He wants to be the best he can be and help the Jets win a Super Bowl. I think that’s all we can ask for from the kid.
Another reason Coples will be successful is because, for once, the Jets have an outstanding defensive line coach in Karl Dunbar. Dunbar came to the Jets after many years with the Minnesota Vikings. There, he coached the Williams brothers and a guy named Jared Allen. Add in the successful years of Ray Edwards under Dunbar and this could be a match made in heaven. He’s going to work with Coples on learning how to penetrate from a 5 technique position, as well as, spreading him out to a 7 or 9 technique and getting him one on one versus a bigger, slower offensive tackle. I honestly feel that Rex will see how successful Coples can be outside that we may see a little more 4-3 defense than in the past. With increased defensive speed, we can afford to play a little more 7 man front with 4 down lineman. We may also see Coples standing up more than Rex has stated. However as a 5 technique he will probably demand double teams freeing up guys like Maybin and David Harris on blitzes. Under Dunbar’s tutelage Coples will learn to avoid double teams and have a successful career wreaking havoc on opponents’ backfields.
Of course I know this pick wasn’t the flashy guy everyone expected. Of course I know the issues he’s had in the past. You bet I know that this pick is a very high risk or reward pick. I ask Jet fans to be patient with the kid. Watch him grow into a formidable pass rusher. As of now, the kid knows three-quarters of the defensive playbook (thanks to a 10-DVD set sent to him by Coach Ryan and Coach Pettine). That puts him well ahead of Vernon Gholston’s total knowledge of it over the course of three years! So let’s please stop with the Gholston comparisons. I know they play the same position, but Coples is not Gholston. Gholston was a “hand in the dirt” guy that the Jets moved to outside linebacker and it didn’t pan out. Coples will play his position of the 5 technique, as well as, move around and cause fits for quarterbacks for the next 10 years of his career. Anyone who thinks he’s just going to “have his hand in the dirt” is extremely naive. They are going to move him around from 5 technique to 9 technique and have a dangerous pass rush with him and a beefed up Aaron Maybin. He cannot be judged first year on his sack totals. He needs to be judged on QB pressures, and batted balls. Maybin may benefit the most from having Coples on the defensive line this season. Look for both players to have solid years.
If anyone is worried about his motivation, there’s one difference in the NFL versus college. NFL has contracts, where players have an opportunity to make a living (although it’s debatable about college football these days also). According to the new CBA, the rookie contracts will not guarantee as much money as years past, so the contracts will be more incentive-laden. Tannenbaum will create a contract based on incentives. What more motivation does an athlete need than performing at a high level so that he makes more money? Let’s face it…all athletes are motivated by money. Why do you think most players in their “contract year” play better? I don’t believe that this is the only motivation and of course I’m being facetious. Rex is a motivator. Forget last year, guys still like playing for Rex. Mo Wilkerson played alongside Coples in high school and told the Jets they should pick Coples. He told Rex that Coples was “a better player than me.” That says a lot about this kid’s potential, and with Mo Wilkerson, a good character guy, on his side, you can bet Coples will work hard and will be everything we dreamed about as a pass rusher.
It is too early to grade the pick or judge the pick, but its definitely not too early to look away from the “issues” of motivation with Coples and look forward to his performance on the field. The sky is the limit for a talent like Coples. Will he be the next Julius Peppers? Who knows, but I think he’s going to prove a lot of fans and scouts wrong by playing and working his hardest day in and day out to help the Jets win football games. Was Ingram the flashy fan-favorite pick? Yes, but we didn’t get him so fans have to look past it for now and look at the bright side of the potential true pass rusher we have in #98 Quinton Coples.