The Jets' selection of defensive lineman Quinton Coples with their first-round pick in last spring’s NFL draft was met with skepticism from those who thought he was taken too high at No. 16, and Coples’ slow start has done nothing to lay those concerns to rest. But Jets coach Rex Ryan said Coples has shown improvemnt, and he expects the rookie to play a more prominent role against San Francisco Sunday at metLife Stadium.
“He’s had a great week,” Ryan said of Coples. “I’m expecting him to play really well.”
The lack of a pass-rushing threat on the Jets’ defensive line is glaring, and the hope is that Coples(pictured) might solve that problem one day. He certainly showed flashes of pass-rush ability in the preseason. But for now, his primary task simply is to learn a defense that’s far more complex than what he experienced at North Carolina.
“They probably expected me to come and make an impact from the beginning, but I think it was a learning process for me,” Coples said. “It wasn’t like I was coming into a set scheme of a defense where I just had to learn a few plays and then do that. It’s a different type of scheme…I think things have started coming to me now as far as the defensive schemes and offensive formations and the different blocks they’re giving me.”
Part of the learning process involves lining up in the right spot after some pre-snap movement. “It’s very tough as a defensive lineman, but we have great linebackers,” Coples said. “They talk with us and let us know what’s going on so we can react to the different schemes.”
Veteran defensive tackle Sione Pou’ha said he wouldn’t be doing his duty if he didn’t work with Coples, as well as second-year men Muhammad Wilkerson and Kenrick Ellis. “He has the determination,” Pou’ha said of Coples. “You can see it. It becomes relevant when somebody gets it. I think he kind of understands, ‘Okay, this is how things work, and this is how I fit into the scheme of things.’ Now, it’s becoming second nature to him, and that’s where you can see the blossoming take place.”
Coples said Ryan’s message to the team this week has been to get ready for an old-school, smashmouth type of game against a physical 49ers offense that commits to running the ball with Frank Gore. But they still have a diverse passing attack with quarterback Alex Smith spreading the ball to wide receivers Michael Crabtree, Randy Moss and Mario Manningham and dangerous tight end Vernon Davis.
The Jets only have three sacks in three games, so, it would be nice if Coples could improve the pass rush. But they also have been weak against the run this season, and that’s the first priority, especially against the 49ers.
“Coples is not a one-dimensional type of player,” Pou’ha said. “He’s a stout run stopper, strong at the line of scrimmage, and he’s also versatile enough to get up the field and get a pass rush.”
49ers’ Frank Gore tough to stop
Veteran Niners running back Frank Gore is no fancy dancer. He’s known for powering between the tackles and running over people. That’s one reason the Jets might use three safeties at times to try and contain San Francisco’s running game.
“They do try to run the ball a lot,” backup safety Eric Smith said. “That’s the kind of game we think it’s going to be, a big physical game. We’re going to have to come up and make tackles. Gore’s a powerful runner. He runs behind his pads well. When you come to tackle him, you have to bring it because he’s running through arm tackles.”
Joe McKnight’s first week at DB
The week began with Ryan telling running back Joe McKnight he’d been traded to the defense, a move the third-year man didn’t welcome. But McKnight has impressed his teammates in the secondary with his natural athletic ability and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said he might play this week in limited situations.
Summing up his first week in his new role, McKnight said, “I’m not comfortable with it because it’s a new position, but I’m going to get comfortable with it. I’ve got a lot of confidence I can do it, but there’s a difference between being comfortable and confident.”
Because he still has a role in the Wildcat offense and special teams, McKnight expects to be on the active roster. “I’m tuned in to my role,” he said. “They told me, when I get in, I’ll probably be man-to-man on somebody. I’m not going to play any zones.”
Rookie wide receiver Stephen Hill is listed as doubtful with a hamstring injury suffered last week in Miami and admits he’s shooting to return next week against Houston. After suffering the injury, Hill tried returned to the Miami game for one play but couldn’t perform. “I think it was a mistake,” he admitted. “I shouldn’t have gone back out there. But it still feels the same, so, it really wasn’t like I injured it any more.”…Backup QB Tim Tebow said the return of the regular officiating crews after the end of the lockout will restore an air of predictability in the sense that players know what to expect from certain officials. “You want to try to know your refs, know what they call, what their tendencies are,” Tebow said. “You didn’t have a great feel the past few weeks.”…If he’s healthy, veteran linebacker Bryan Thomas is expected to start, but when asked to describe how much he’s practiced this week, Thomas said, “Sparingly. At the end of the day, it’s the coaches’ decision.”…The Jets signed CB Darrin Walls, a second-year man out of Notre Dame, to the practice squad Friday night. They released seventh-roun rookie wide receiver Jordan White to make room.