Smith begins to hustle toward the left sideline, now sprinting toward the outside, keeping his eyes downfield, looking to make a pass all the while.
“He was my responsibility,” Coples said, “and I just wanted to assure him that he could not outrun me.”
Smith hardly gets past the line of scrimmage before Coples cuts him off and forces him out of bounds.
“Not that fast!” Coples shouts. “Not that fast!”
“Now he can’t get into the press and tell y’all that he can outrun me,” he said.
Typically on the receiving end of compliments regarding foot speed, Smith was amazed by Coples’ ability to keep up with him on the bootleg during this morning’s practice.
“The guy’s like 280 [actually 6'6", 290] and he’s running step for step with me,” Smith said, “That’s a good sign.”
Entering his second year, Coples will transition from a defensive end to a D-line/linebacker hybrid. With the change in position comes a change in responsibilities.
As he transfers into the second level of the defense, containing quarterbacks and showing off his speed will be even more necessary than before. With an emphasis on keeping pace with those in the backfield, running stride for stride with Smith shows his ability to get the job done effectively.
“I can’t wait until he’s chasing other guys down on Sunday,” Smith said.
Coples added that becoming a hybrid defensive lineman/linebacker will come naturally with some reliance on the coaching staff and his pre-NFL playing days.
“It’s a position that I’ve played a little bit throughout my years of football,” he said, “and the coaches are giving me some good feedback and constructive criticism as well.”
Coples will look to improve upon his impressive rookie campaign in which he led the team with 5.5 sacks. But he understands that physical ability alone cannot lead to success.
“It’s about understanding what you’re doing and understanding your responsibility more than anything,” he said.
Once he learns his new responsibilities, this Jet will be ready for takeoff.