he can sure hit
BY MANISH MEHTA
Amid a wild start to the NFL draft that included one trade after another, the typically trade-happy Jets uncharacteristically didn’t budge before grabbing one of the most intriguing players on the board. Rex Ryan & Co. selected North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples, widely regarded as the best – and most confounding – pass rusher in the draft with the 16th pick in the first round on Thursday night. The 6-6, 284-pound Coples, whose drawn comparisons to former UNC great Julius Peppers, possesses all the requisite physical tools to thrive, but his decline in production his senior season gave his critics pause for concern.
The Jets weren’t overly concerned. Ryan will use Coples, who had 17 ½ sacks the past two seasons, primarily as a hand-in-the-dirt 3-4 left defensive end rather than a stand-up outside linebacker.
“He’s probably athletic enough to stand up and play linebacker,” Ryan said. “(But) that’s not what we brought him here to do.”
Coples put up eye-popping numbers (10 sacks) as a left defensive tackle in North Carolina’s 4-3 scheme after a pair of defensive lineman were ruled ineligible for accepting cash from agents for the 2010 season by the NCAA. He had an inconsistent senior season when he moved to right defensive end.
Ryan believes that Coples and Muhammad Wilkerson, who were classmates at Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia five years ago, will fortify Gang Greens’ interior pass rush.
“It is a lot harder to rush a passer from a 3-4 end,” Ryan said. “Some guys cause production. I think Quinton and Muhammad both cause production.… It’s tougher down there. We were at our best when we had a guy like Shaun Ellis moving inside and rushing the passer… The old saying was that the tackle’s job was to push the quarterback back and the outside guy’s job is to push the quarterback forward. With this addition, we’ll push that quarterback back a little bit.”
Ryan was impressed with Coples’ athleticism and endurance when he put him through a workout at UNC’s Pro Day.
“Going through all the defensive line drills, he was not winded,” Ryan said. “I wanted to push him. I wanted to see how this guy would compete thru the drills and put him through drills that he wasn’t familiar with, which was linebacker drills… I couldn’t get him tired.”
Ryan likened Coples to Ellis and Trevor Pryce, who succeeded as interior pass rusher for him.
“To get rewarded and be a Jet, it's unbelievable," said Coples, who made a visit to the Jets last week. "(Ryan) told me if I was there at 16, he was going to take me... no matter what."
"I'm just working hard to be the best athlete as possible in the NFL as possible," he added. "I think I'll be great for the Jets."
Although general manager Mike Tannenbaum admitted that he “did field some calls” and did “monitor activity” for a trade up or down, he said he was happy to select Coples when he was available at No. 16 after the Seahawks made a surprise selection at No. 15 be picking pass rusher Bruce Irvin. The Chargers grabbed South Carolina DE/OLB Melvin Ingram, who was linked to the Jets, two picks later. The Patriots traded up later in the round to nab Syracuse defensive end Chandler Jones, who was also on Gang Green’s radar.
The Jets weren’t worried about the perception that Coples has an inconsistent motor and work ethic.
“The thing you have to do is sit down and talk to the kid and find out where his heart is,” said executive vice president of scouting Joey Clinkscales. “You dig as deep as you can. You do as much background work as you can. You find out his level of play through the years. And we were comfortable with that.”
Said Tannenbaum: “It’s about the culture that we collectively built here. We think we’re adding a good player and a good person to our program.”
The NCAA concluded that Coples didn’t commit any violations by attending a draft party for former teammate Marvin Austin in May.
“With everything (going on) around there, he stayed above the fray,” Clinksclaes said. “He never really got into any trouble. This kid stayed clean through all the transition.”
lanes. Run defense: Lacks the bulk teams are looking for in a three-down defensive tackle. Comes off the snap high but has excellent strength to quickly stand up his opponent. Good hand placement and upper-body strength to stack and shed blocks. Can swim inside, get skinny and beat doubles. Has enough lateral agility and length that running backs can't escape when he's near. Funnels action to teammates. Good lateral agility and balance to play the keys and pursue laterally. Explosion: Explosive strength to rock the offensive lineman back onto his heels. Can generate ferocious hits when he gets some momentum. Strength: Among his best assets. Can easily bull rush most offensive linemen and plow them backward into the pocket. Struggles with leverage when playing defensive tackle and can get pushed off the ball early in the play, but ultimately recovers because of his strength. Tackling: Good drag-down tackler. Can latch on to ballcarriers with just one arm and slow them enough for teammates to clean up the trash. Long arms allow him to "catch" opponents and wrestle them to the ground. Lowers his head too often when making contact. Good effort in lateral pursuit. Will leave his feet and lunge at the ballcarrier, showing the explosiveness to knock his opponent down without wrapping up. Few ballcarriers are able to escape his grasp, long arms and strength. Intangibles: Investigated by the NCAA for attending draft-day parties with former teammates Marvin Austin and Robert Quinn, but was ultimately cleared of any wrongdoing. Added 30 pounds since signing with North Carolina. Immaturity and selfishness apparent when asked to move back inside to defensive tackle in the middle of his senior season; he refused for fear it would hurt his draft stock. NFL Comparison: Julius Peppers, Bears --Rob Rang