Jets very pleased with Quinton Coples' debut

Quinton Coples tries to knock the ball down Quinton Coples tries to knock the ball down during a preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals. (Aug. 10, 2012) Photo Credit: Getty Images

advertisement | advertise on newsday

CORTLAND, N.Y. -- When others doubted the Jets for picking Quinton Coples ahead of guys such as Melvin Ingram, Dont'a Hightower and Chandler Jones, Karl Dunbar believed.

Underneath the shaded cover of a media tent after practice last week, the Jets' defensive line coach raved about his young corps of weapons -- Coples in particular.

The learning curve for the former North Carolina standout will be steep, Dunbar knows. Nevertheless, he believes the rookie -- who was selected 16th overall in April -- has the size, athleticism and talent to shatter expectations.

Coples' performance in Friday night's 17-6 loss to the Bengals was one of the few bright spots in a rather forgettable showing for the Jets. They had no electrifying plays downfield and no touchdowns. But there were flashes of Coples shedding blocks and pressuring the quarterback.

His final stat line -- five tackles (two for a loss), one sack (for a loss of 10 yards), a forced fumble and a pass defensed -- was tangible proof of what Dunbar has known all along.

"You get a chance to see him deliver a blow now," the line coach recently said of the 6-6, 285-pound Coples. "And it's just as advertised."

advertisement | advertise on newsday

After more than a week of training camp, which included "live" short-yardage and goal-line drills and an intrasquad scrimmage, Dunbar could sense good things were on the horizon for Coples.

His presence was felt more against the Bengals' backups, but Coples' play was an encouraging sign considering the knocks on his motor and drive during the draft process.

"Quinton Coples, I thought, had a tremendous game," coach Rex Ryan said. " . . . That's not surprising, but I was happy to see it nonetheless."

Coples -- who forced the Bengals to go three-and-out in the second quarter after pressuring Bruce Gradkowski into throwing an incompletion to Brandon Tate -- shed a blocker and nearly got to Gradkowski during Cincinnati's next series despite a holding penalty against Reggie Stephens.

Coples, who played in all four quarters, seemed just as pleased with his NFL preseason debut. "I did very well," he said. "I don't have a grade for it, but I was very productive. I also have a lot to improve upon as well."

It had been a relatively quiet camp for Coples, who still is getting adjusted to his various roles. In the Jets' 4-3 front, he and Muhammad Wilkerson line up as defensive ends, sandwiching Mike Devito and Sione Pouha. In the four-man sub front, Coples and Wilkerson shift inside, with linebackers Aaron Maybin and Calvin Pace on the ends.

But Coples' early struggles weren't too surprising to the coaching staff. "[Gosh] dang, the first two days [of training camp], we had 40 defenses in. So it's a lot of stuff," Dunbar said, adding that Coples hasn't had any "deer in the headlights" moments.

At his suggestion, Coples has put in extra work with outside linebackers coach Mike Smith to help his coverage of running backs and tight ends in space.

"He's got incredible burst and great body control," Dunbar said. "And that's the thing that we saw when he played in college. You saw it at the combine.

"And if he can use those things to help us," he added, pounding his fist on the table for emphasis, "we're going to be a better defense 'cause of it."

You also may be interested in: