Jets rookie DE Coples not making immediate impact
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Rex Ryan stood in a near-empty hallway recently, far removed from the news conference cameras and microphones. On this particular day, the Jets coach had no problems giving a guarantee of sorts.
Ryan had been pressed about the diminishing role of first-rounder Quinton Coples heading into the Jets' Week 4 matchup last week against San Francisco. But despite the rookie defensive end's decreasing snap counts, the coach insisted there was more in store for their 16th overall pick.
"Watch what happens this week," Ryan said. "He's going to play a lot more."
He was right. Coples, who was used on 15 plays against Miami in Week 3, had two tackles for a loss against the 49ers in a game in which he got 41 snaps on the defense's total of 68 plays.
But with a month of the NFL season already over, the pass rush the Jets spent the past two years improving -- at least, so they say -- remains a nonentity. The team has five sacks, two of which came from backup outside linebacker Garrett McIntyre in one game against Pittsburgh.
None of those sacks, however, have come from Coples.
The Jets' coaching staff continually has mentioned putting the 6-6, 290-pound rookie in "advantageous situations" (read: passing downs) and highlighted the need for patience with someone new to the high-speed NFL.
"He's practicing better," defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said Thursday. "He's making some plays. Again, he's learning the system. There's no substitute for actual game experience. As he gains that, he's getting better.
"He's making rookie mistakes and we have to get those eliminated, but again, we're looking for him, just like everyone else on the defense, to be more consistent."
Had it not been for Chandler Jones' breakout September, perhaps Coples' learning curve would be easier for Jets fans to accept. Jones, the standout Syracuse defensive end who was selected 21st overall by Bill Belichick and the Patriots, recently was named the rookie defensive player of the month.
Jones registered a team-high three sacks in September, the most among NFL rookies, and finished the month with 19 tackles and two forced fumbles. But he's not the only rookie defensive player to make an immediate impact on his new club. Seahawks defensive end Bruce Irvin, who was selected one spot ahead of the Jets' first-rounder, has five tackles and 4.5 sacks, while Bears defensive end Shea McClellin (the 19th overall selection) has five tackles and two sacks.
Coples -- who, according to Ryan "has the God-given ability to be great" -- has been noticeably quiet since his breakout preseason in which he was tied for the league lead in sacks (4.5). Since then, he registered six tackles in four games during the regular season.
Upon Coples' selection back in April, the team raved about his versatility and asked defensive lineman Mike DeVito to take a pay cut. Coples, at the time, was billed as a starter who had the athleticism to be an end and a tackle. The coaching staff also tried him out at outside linebacker during training camp, but that experiment was short-lived.
"I think it's a little bit too much, especially for a younger guy," defensive line coach Karl Dunbar said. "You like him to cut his teeth on something he understands. And then, as he grows, then you can add more to the plate.
"His skill set is so that you can have him playing everywhere," Dunbar said, adding that Coples in some respects reminds him of former Ravens and Patriots linebacker Adalius Thomas, who played for Ryan in Baltimore.
"[Thomas] in one game played seven different positions, and I think [Coples] has that skill set. But the knowledge has to catch up with the skill set."
Ryan laughed when the Thomas-Coples comparison was brought to his attention.
"You never know," Ryan said. "Our first year with Adalius, he wasn't playing seven positions. But there were similar skill sets, I will say that. [Dunbar's] not wrong for saying that, but we'll see how [Coples] goes. But Quinton's going to be an outstanding defensive lineman. There's no question in my mind."
Outstanding would be nice. But, for now, Jets fans probably would be satisfied with just a sack here or there.