What they’re saying about the Jets’ selection of North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples with the 16th pick in the N.F.L. draft on Thursday night:
Ben Shpigel, The New York Times:
In four seasons at North Carolina, Coples had 24 sacks, including 10 as a junior. But his output dropped last year, to seven-and-a-half, raising questions about his work ethic and commitment.
Manish Mehta, The Daily News:
Rex Ryan & Co. selected North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples, widely regarded as the best — and most confounding — pass rusher in the draft.
Rich Cimini, ESPN New York:
The Jets pointed to Coples’ tumultuous stay in Chapel Hill as possible factors for his uneven play. The program was rocked by an agents scandal in 2010, and coach Butch Davis was fired before the 2011 season. Coples played for two head coaches and four position coaches in four years.
The NFL Network draft guru Mike Mayock said recently: “On the defend side of the ball, Quinton Coples. He could be an All-Pro but has bust potential written all over him.”
As provided by Jets.com, the transcript of a news conference with General Manager Mike Tannenbaum, Coach Rex Ryan and the vice president for college scouting, Joey Clinkscales:
TANNENBAUM: We’re excited to get Quinton [Coples] at the 16th pick. We did field some calls, but just really felt good about the value of getting Quinton. He’s going to play on the defensive line along with Sione [Pouha], Mike DeVito and Mo Wilkerson. I think it will be fun to watch Rex and Coach [Mike] Pettine, see how they use him. We spent an extensive amount of time with Quinton as far as getting to know him.
It started with the first interview in Mobile at the Senior Bowl and I thought he had a really good week there. We spent more time with him at the combine. He came up for a predraft visit, and I’m very confident in our process and the people that are involved with the process and everyone that touched, saw and evaluated Quinton as a person, came back and said, “This guy likes football.” It was a unique set of circumstances — at one point during a two-season period, Quinton had four different position coaches. With that said he still had very good productivity, 24 career sacks. We’re excited to get him. I want to thank everyone again publicly for all their help through the process.
On why Coples was selected…
CLINKSCALES: First of all, Quinton was a great pass rusher. He’s long, he’s tall, he’s got length, he’s very athletic, and from the standpoint of grades, he was the highest-rated player left on the board for us at that point.
On how Coples will fit into the defense…
RYAN: Quinton’s a guy, he’s probably athletic enough to stand up and play linebacker and all that, but that’s not why we brought him here. He’s going to have his hand in the dirt. He reminds me of a similar type of player to Shaun Ellis, a Trevor Pryce-type. He’s in that kind of mold, very athletic for an inside pass rusher and a 3-4 guy. I really think that’s a fair comparison between those two.
TANNENBAUM: One thing I wanted to add is that he was a teammate of Mo Wilkerson’s at Hargrave [Military Academy] and the reason that’s really important to me is this is a guy that was in the same locker room with him and any time we have those situations I always ask these guys — Kyle Wilson’s guys from Boise State for example, that is critical to me — ‘Do you want to work with this guy day in and day out?’ Mo was unbelievable. He said, “He’s a great teammate and he’s a better player than me.” So those two things were very encouraging, but again our process was very thorough. We’re excited that he’s here and we’re looking forward to him working with us.
On Coples’ play as a senior…
RYAN: I think that’s a fair question. The guy did have seven sacks as an interior lineman — that’s pretty good numbers-wise. But I think expectations going into the season, he might’ve been behind Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, but he’s probably the highest-rated player going into the season based on the previous season, with the 10 sacks. You don’t see that from an interior lineman, a guy that’s 6’6” and 285 pounds.
So I think maybe he did not meet those as a player, but the thing that I know, being a defensive line coach for a number of years, is that when he switched from the left side to the right side, and a lot of his time was spent as an inside tackle in a 4-3, then they move him to right side defensive end in a 4-3, now that takes some time and some adjustments. Everything you’re used to working off, a right-handed stance, now you’re down to a left-handed stance.
Some guys, they can make that transition easy, and sometimes you can’t. I remember when I went to Baltimore, the first thing I did was make Tony Siragusa right defensive tackle because he’s a natural left-handed guy. When a guy’s a natural right-handed guy, it’s easy. There are some guys who can do it and some who can’t do it so well. I feel that he’s a guy, and I compared him before to Shaun [Ellis], I think Shaun was much better on the left side than he was the right, so when I got here, we never flipped Shaun, we left him on the left, and I think that’s what we’ll do with this young man.
On promising Coples they would take him if he was there at the 16th pick…
TANNENBAUM: We made that promise to 16 players [joking].
RYAN: Mike may not have been there when I made that promise, but I was going to work really hard to get him if he was there at 16, that’s for sure.
On what Ryan was looking for by getting hands-on with Coples at pro day…
RYAN: What I tried to do was tire him out, but he wasn’t winded. He went through all the defensive line drills and he was not winded so I wanted to push him. I wanted to see how this guy would compete through the drills and put him through drills he wasn’t familiar with, which were linebacker drills.
It’s funny, I forget who was there with me but I said, “I think I just made this young man a lot of money,” because when we were going through the drills, he can catch the football, he can run. That’s not saying he couldn’t play outside linebacker because he looked really athletic. He was really impressive in those drills, and I couldn’t get him tired. There were several coaches there putting him through drills and it was impressive.
On how issues that occurred at UNC when Coples was a senior affected the Jets’ perception of him…
CLINKSCALES: I think it was just a small point, because he was a kid that through everything that went on there, he stayed above the fray, he never really got into any trouble. I think that there was an incident where there may have been something with a hotel and he had all the receipts. This kid stayed clean through all the transitions with all the coaches. He had two head coaches, four position coaches, numerous changes with players and people being suspended, but he stayed above the fray.
TANNENBAUM: To Joey’s point, he had all of his receipts, because I think at one point he was looked into in an incident, but to his credit he had all the documentation he needed to keep his eligibility.
On why Coples was brought in late for a visit…
TANNENBAUM: I wish I could tell you there was some smart reason for that. Sometimes that’s the way it works with these agents when they’re trying to juggle all of these spots and there is a deadline for when you can do it. I think that was more of a logistics thing than planning.
On concerns about Coples’ work ethic and passion for the game…
CLINKSCALES: I think that the thing you have to do is sit down and talk to the kid and find out where his heart is. Again, Coach worked him out and he found out how athletic the kid was and you can see some of that stuff on tape. You dig as deep as you can. Obviously, Muhammad was with him at Hargrave, and you find out as much background work as you can and you find out his level of play through the years. We were comfortable with that.
On how Coples can become the pass rusher on defense the Jets need…
RYAN: It is a lot harder to rush a passer from a 3-4 inside. Muhammad had a good season and he only had three sacks if you look at that. But some guys cause production. I think Quinton and Muhammad both cause production. They’re just those types of guys. But they can get production themselves. I think Mo is really going to ascend this year, I truly believe that. He reminds me of a young Richard Seymour and Seymour would get five sacks a year.
It’s tougher down there but we look at it as we were at our best when we had Shaun Ellis moving inside to rush the passer. We picked up Trevor Pryce and he did a good job. He only had one sack but how much production did he cause? I think those are things you look for. I’m excited with the outside guy we have, Aaron Maybin. The old saying is that the defensive tackle’s job is to push the quarterback back and the outside guy’s job is to push the quarterback forward. I think with this addition, we can push that quarterback back a little bit.
On if Coples is capable of becoming a double-digit sack performer…
TANNENBAUM: Not to put expectations out there, but to Rex’s point, we talked a lot about this in our meetings and sat down with Coach Ryan and Coach Pettine. I go back to what Coach Ryan was saying about causing production. It’s about team defense and keeping the opponent off the board. I don’t think it’s fair to label Quinton a bad pick if he doesn’t have 10 sacks. He’s going to be an important part of a good defense.
On having faith in Ryan to motivate Coples…
TANNENBAUM: I wouldn’t say it’s faith. I would say it’s about the culture that we’ve built here, going into the fourth year from the standpoint that “playing like a Jet” means something and it’s not just one person, be it Rex or Karl Dunbar or Mike Pettine. It’s all the players and all the coaches and the standards that we collectively set for ourselves. We think we’re adding a good player and a good person to our program. It’s not faith on any one thing. Rex is the leader, has set the tone, obviously, but it means a lot more than just one person for what we’re trying to build here.
On movement in the draft…
TANNENBAUM: There was movement in our draft room, too. We were walking around quite a bit [joking]. That’s our job, to monitor activity, up, down, wherever. We just felt really good that when we got to 16 and Quinton was there …. Since there is a really strict rookie pool, I can tell you how excited we were. The trade scenario wasn’t really there. Once Coples got to 16, we felt really good about it.
On making an effort to trade up…
TANNENBAUM: I think part of my job is to monitor activity so I’m not going to say I didn’t make any calls per se. Unless something unusual was available, up or down, we felt comfortable with the pick and the fact that Quinton was there. But you do have to be prepared for all scenarios. But it’s not just me, it’s Joey, it’s Terry, it’s Scott Cohen, it’s a bunch of people. Our job is to monitor things, plus or minus three or four picks.
On if this transition will be easier than it was for Vernon Gholston…
RYAN: First off, it’s two totally different situations, Vernon having to go from his hand in the dirt to standing up, a total different position, and this young man, what he does, which is put his hand in the dirt and rush the passer. He’s very athletic for a big man. He’s 6’6″, prototypical pass-rush size. He’s athletic, he can run — he ran a 4.7 at the combine. It’s unusual to get a guy that is this athletic. And he has production.
It’s not just Vernon Gholston that failed at that, if you want to say that. But I thought Vernon was improving and I’m actually on record as saying that. But not having the numbers that people expected, that’s a longer transition and it takes a while. But we don’t have that issue here. This young man is staying with his hand in the dirt.
An interview with Coples, supplied by the N.F.L.
Q. Who talked to you on the phone first?
It was Coach (Rex) Ryan asking me if I’m ready to be a Jet, and I definitely said yes.
Q. How do you feel about sacking Tom Brady?
Oh, yeah, by far, definitely have to sack Tom Brady.
Q. On being selected by the NY Jets:
It’s a blessing from God. I think God put it in his hands and he delivered for me and he wanted me to be a New York Jet, and that’s why I’m here today as a Jet.
Q. When the Panthers came to visit you on Monday and you were available at No. 9, were you surprised they didn’t take you?
I think they made the best decision for their program and their franchise.
Q. Did you want to go earlier or did you think 16 was about right?
I just wanted to be drafted overall. I just wanted to be drafted, and thank God that the Jets took me.
Q. Have you ever spoken to Lawrence Taylor?
We definitely spoke. He came and did a few chapels for us during my junior season and I got a chance to speak, and he was a great guy and definitely was a great New York Giant.
Q. What did he pass on to you?
Just hard work, effort, and understanding the business of the game.
Q. Where do you see yourself fitting into the Jets’ defense? Are you ready to go right away?
I am going to go in and take some lessons from the veterans and go in under their knowledge and work my way up.
Q. Can you talk about just being on a team that has a defensive coach basically as a head coach?
It gives me a great opportunity to become a defensive lineman, and I think that’s what every defensive lineman looks for is a coach that definitely has the passion that I do for defense.
Q. Did you hear from any of the Jet fans yet up in the balcony?
Yes, they were asking for autographs and talking to me during the time that I was going out to do the radio interviews.
Q. What was the contact that you had with the Jets before the draft?
There was definitely interest in me, and they said if I was there at pick 16, that I would definitely be the pick that they choose.
Q. What’s your impression of the team before you came? You liked Rex Ryan obviously, but what about the team?
They’re definitely on TV every day, and they definitely had a great opportunity. I think it was an unfortunate situation that they didn’t go as far as they did last season, but they drafted me and I’m going to help them get past that obstacle.
Q. Did you watch Hard Knocks two years ago?
I definitely watched Hard Knocks.
Q. What did you think of that show?
I think it was a great show. It gave athletes that hands‑on, one‑on‑one type of video shoot that lets you know how the NFL really is and not just a perception of it.
Q. What about Hard Knocks and Rex Ryan? He’s as much an entertainer as anything. Do you see yourself as not just an athlete but an entertainer, too?
I don’t know. We’ll definitely wait and see.
Q. Do you know any of the other players who are on the team? Did you ever play against any of them?
Defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson.
Q. What’s the first purchase with your new contract?
A place to stay, an apartment to stay at.
Q. Did Wilkerson give you any type of feel about what is expected out of you?
Just get to the pads, get to the quarterback. Be an elite pass rusher, so we can be a versatile defense and be the No. 1 defense.
Q. I don’t know how closely you follow the Jets, but they’ve really needed a pass rusher for a long time.
I think that’s what they drafted me for, and I’m definitely here to get the job done.
Q. Have you spoken with Woody Johnson yet?
Woody Johnson got on the phone and spoke highly of me, and said, “Get ready to be a Jet, man, and let’s go get a Super Bowl.”