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Hybrid Coples Will Get a Head Start at OLB

Posted May 24, 2013

Quinton Coples doesn’t know where his dropping responsibilities might take him, but he is not about to set any limits.

“I can be lined up on a tight end or a fullback that’s split out and there are some plays he goes straight up the field and I’m right there with him,” he told me on this week’s “Jets Talk LIVE” installment.  “It just depends on whatever they do at the end of the day.  I know my responsibility and if I have to lock ‘em up man-to-man and if he goes 30 yards down the field — then 30 yards down the field with him.”

It didn’t come as a shock to Coples that the Jets were going to move him over to outside linebacker.  Before he was drafted last April, the 6’6”, 285-pound Coples was asked to drop by an NFL head coach at a workout.

“I think it was a plan for Rex long-term.  Last year he was just seeing how the defensive end thing worked out,” Coples said.  “When I was coming out at my pro day at the University of North Carolina, he had me do drops and linebacker drills as well as defensive line drills.  I think once he drafted me, he already had that plan that eventually I would be an outside linebacker.”

When the media watched practice at OTAs this week, the defense played a lot of sub packages with Coples placing his hand down playing at defensive end.  Defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman refers to the former Tar Heel star as a “hybrid” and the Green & White are going to put No. 98 on the move.

“There are different packages that we have still where I put my hand down, but overall I’ll be in disguise,” said Coples.   “Some packages I’m a D-end and some packages I’m an outside linebacker.  It just depends.”

Excited about the opportunity of playing OLB, Coples sees a lot of advantages to standing up.  After leading the Jets with 5.5 sacks as a rookie, he believes he will have a better view in Year 2.

“I think it gives me a head start on getting to the quarterback.  It also gives me a head start on seeing the pass as far as if I have seam flat or if I’m able to check with a three-receiver hook,” he said.  “It just depends on the play call.  I can see the receivers when I’m standing up and I can see things going on — their formation and how they’re operating, and the things they can run out of it a lot better than I can with my hand in the dirt.”

Just a few days ago, Coples dropped for the first time in an OTA session and the early results were favorable.

“My first day was Monday as far as live practice with it.   It was pretty good,” he said.  “I dropped back and graded out pretty well.  It was a productive day for me.  There are still some small things to work on, but overall it was great.”

The positional change has not gone without some backlash from his teammates though.

“It’s different.  The D-line kind of come at me a little bit because they see me as somewhat of a traitor or whatever, but I let them know that I still bleed D-line,” Coples said with a big grin.  “There are just certain situations where I have to be outside linebacker, but at the end of the day — D-line is in my heart.  I just play outside linebacker as well.”

The Jets have addressed their defensive front in Round 1 each of the past three drafts with Muhammad Wilkerson (D1, No. 30 - 2011), Coples (D1, No. 16 – 2012) and Sheldon Richardson (D1, No. 13 – 2013).  While Richardson’s explosiveness is impressive, the Jets also quietly added another speed rusher in free agency with the signing of OLB Atwan Barnes.

“We have tremendous up front talent.  I think this year there will be a lot of four-man rushes and we have a fast group — we have a speed group,” Coples said.  “We have things of that nature, so I think getting to the quarterback will definitely be a habit for the front this year.”

So Jets Nation shouldn’t be worried.  Rest assured Quinton Coples is going to be headed upfield more often than not, but he just will add a little bit of pass defense to his growing skill-set. 

“I’m definitely going to be the pass rusher for the Jets and I’m going to get to the quarterback as much as possible," he said.  "But I will be in disguise as well, so maybe a few picks here and there.”

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