If you watched any of the Jets' four preseason games this summer, one of the first players that likely caught your eye was No. 98, Quinton Coples.
Coples, the Jets' 2012 first-round draft selection out of North Carolina, concluded his first ever preseason with 4.5 sacks.
While that's certainly an impressive stat, the stellar production hasn't carried over into the regular season as the rookie has just three tackles and no sacks in the Jets' first three games.
"It's a learning process," Coples said following this afternoon's practice. "I know they probably expected me to come in and make an impact from the beginning, but I just think it was a learning process for me as a different scheme. 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."
Despite the early struggles, Jets head coach Rex Ryan has never lost belief in the Kinston, N.C., native, stating at his news conference this morning that Coples put together his best practice as a Jet Wednesday.
"I'm sure his play time will go up," Ryan said. "It's going to increase."
The defense will need more contributions from Coples moving forward, especially with All Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis likely out for the rest of the season after tearing his left ACL against Miami on Sunday.
"We're going to miss Revis," Coples said. "But overall we've got to get to the quarterback and make sure that our corners don't have to cover that hole."
Coples said the toughest adjustment from being a defensive lineman at the collegiate level to one in the NFL has been recognizing different blocks offensive lineman present.
"Learning the schemes of the defense wasn't as hard," he said. "It's just reacting to what the offense gives you, knowing the personnel, knowing the formation, how to react to certain different blocks and things to that nature. But I've been spending more time with my coaches understanding the defense and recognizing blocks and it's finally paying off."
Although it's still a work in progress, Coples' teammate, nose tackle Sione Po'uha, has been pleased with what he's witnessed from the rookie.
"He always had the determination and I think you can almost see it, it just becomes relevant when somebody kind of gets it — the 'gets it' factor," Po'uha said. "I think Q kind of understands, 'OK, this is how things work, this is how I fit into the scheme of things.' He's always had great effort, always had great technique, but I think it's almost becoming more of a second nature to him and that's where you can see the blossom take place."
Always staying positive, Coples agrees that he is still making strides and trying to improve daily.
"I just think things are coming to me now," he said. "Things are starting to come to me now as far as the defensive schemes and the formations. So a lot of things are coming to me. I'm reacting well to the offensive formations and the different blocks that they're giving me."
The Jets return home Sunday to face the San Francisco 49ers and No. 98 expects the matchup to be an old-school, downhill, helmet-to-helmet type battle. With Revis sidelined, Coples said it's essential for the Jets' execution to be crisp. And from an individual standpoint, he is eager at the opportunity to step onto the field and showcase his talent. "I think it's great that he's built his confidence up in me in giving me more playing time," Coples said of Ryan's praise toward him. "It's been a learning process for me, learning a different scheme in the defense. But I'm ready now, and willing to take forward the responsibility."