Rex Ryan has taken every opportunity in recent weeks to defend the Jets' first-round selection of Quinton Coples.
But on Sunday night, Ryan was anything but pleased.
The rookie picked up his third sack of the preseason and also had a tackle and a pass defensed. But it was Coples' attitude and conditioning that had Ryan peeved.
"I wasn’t as happy this game as I was previously," the coach said after Sunday night's 17-12 loss to Carolina. "I thought he got winded a little bit. He kind of had a woe-with-me when we took out the starters.
"Hey look, you’re still a rookie, you have to play the whole game and then some. They ran the ball on us with our second group in there and I never like to see that."
The complaints about Coples coming out of North Carolina were concerns over his motor and his supposed tendency to take plays off. But the Jets ignored the naysayers, drafting the 6-6, 290-pound defensive end 16th overall in April.
Since training camp began, new defensive line coach Karl Dunbar has raved about Coples' athleticism and said the rookie hasn't shown any letdown, despite adjusting to the outside linebacker position.
Coples showed promise in his first NFL presesason debut, recording five tackles (two for a loss), one sack (for a loss of 10 yards), a forced fumble and a pass defensed. Coples also sacked backup quarterback David Carr in last week's loss to the Giants and recorded three tackles (one assisted) and two QB hits.
"You get a chance to see him deliver a blow now," Dunbar told Newsday recently. "And it's just as advertised."
Coples, of course, is talented. But truth be told, it's a little disturbing that a head coach -- who has been the rookie's biggest advocate in the public eye -- is calling Coples' work ethic and passion into question.
Following the Jets' preseason loss to the Bengals two weeks ago, linebacker Calvin Pace was asked in Cortland about the rookie's development. Pace said Coples was doing well. But the veteran quickly noted the difference between Coples' aggressiveness in practice and in games.
"One thing I would like to see with Q is just urgency a little bit in practice," Pace said. "But he’s young, that happens. When the lights came on he knew how to get to the quarterback, so I like the direction he’s going and I think this week will be a good test for him."