What Will Quinton Coples' Role Be in the New York Jets Defense?
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
If the New York Jets plan on using Quinton Coples anything like they did in their first preseason game, they might as well not give him a positional designation at all. Just list him as "D" for defenseman, or "FS" for front seven.
Coples' shift from defensive end to outside linebacker was exaggerated. The 2012 first-rounder found himself lined up all over the defense.
In 26 snaps, he was an outside linebacker seven times and a defensive end nine times, lining up on the inside for another 10 snaps.
From an outside linebacker to a 7-technique defensive end to a 0-technique nose tackle, the Jets moved Coples all over the front seven.
He lined up at left outside linebacker in the base 3-4 on the game's opening snap. Notice that his alignment as a "linebacker" is dubious, as he is on the line of scrimmage.
This alignment is akin to how the New York Giants used to deploy linebacker Lawrence Taylor. While Coples is considered big for the position at 290 pounds, Taylor was considered small at 237 pounds.
Coples wasn't able to get the pressure, but he did his best J.J. Watt impersonation and swatted the pass at the line of scrimmage.
He showed the ability to get into the backfield from a two-point stance, as well.
On this handoff to Reggie Bush, Coples was able to quickly get past Lions left tackle Riley Reiff and contribute to the tackle.
That kind of penetration is exactly what the Jets are hoping for out of Coples this season, but they won't get it consistently until Coples learns to play with sound technique at his new position.
He has to get used to starting out with a high pad level and still get leverage against the offensive tackle. He rushed upright at the blocker on several occasions, essentially taking himself out of the play.
This is coachable, though, and since the outside linebacker position is brand new for Coples, it would be a shock if he had it down already.
That's what the preseason is for: getting all the bugs worked out before the season begins.
It sure didn't look like Coples had many bugs to work out when he lined up at defensive end. That's been his bread and butter over the years, and he showed off his underrated strength on this running play up the middle.
Lions right tackle Jason Fox engaged Coples in a block, but Coples got his hands inside Fox's pads and jacked him backward even though Fox had the low ground.
That made the hole smaller for running back Mikel Leshoure, and the back was stopped for a three-yard gain.
Coples' lone sack of the night came from a three-point stance as well. He lined up as a 7-technique with an outside shade on the right tackle, and although he didn't win the matchup initially, he was still able to make the play.
It took four changes of direction, including a spin move, and Lions quarterback Shaun Hill ran into his own man, but it all looks the same on the stat sheet.
Outside linebacker Antwan Barnes helped out on the sack, and this is exactly what Jets head coach Rex Ryan likes to see—defenders swarming after the quarterback, and the front seven working as a team to get pressure and the sack.
This blend should have been anticipated, as Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News passed along an interesting comment from defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman back in May:
Thurman on Coples playing OLB: QC will play w/hand in dirt & stand up. "We wouldn't do it if Quinton didn't have the ability to handle it"— Manish Mehta (@MMehtaNYDN) May 15, 2013
What we don't know is how much he'll be asked to drop into coverage from the outside linebacker position. He only dropped into coverage twice against the Lions, and one of those came on a zone blitz where Coples lined up as a 1-technique defensive tackle with his hand in the ground.
Either way, we know the Jets will use Coples a variety of ways to get him into the offensive backfield and get him to the quarterback.
We saw a glimpse of that versatility against the Lions, and we'll certainly see more of it in the coming weeks and in the regular season.
Erik Frenz is also a Patriots/AFC East writer for Boston.com. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand or via team news releases.
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