Quinton Cople's transition to outside linebacker fascinates me. A 285lb behemoth, Quinton runs a 4.69 second 40, comparable to Aldon Smith and Brian Cushing, both of whom are listed at 255lbs. If Coples hits the weight room and leans up, he could gain an extra .1 second in explosiveness, and absolutely destroy in space. But the OLB position is dependent on more than just strength and speed.
The outside linebacker (OLB) is usually responsible for outside containment. This includes the strongside and weakside designations below. They are also responsible for blitzing the quarterback. The OLB is often found responsible for benefiting the team on defensive points allowed. Thus if Cople's hopes to make an impact, he must prove himself in coverage.
Looking at the tape there is little gameplay to make projections from. At the combine Coples was fairly mediocre in the 3 cone drill at 7.57 seconds and the 20 yard shuttle, 4.78 seconds. From a pure measurables perspective, Coples doesn't match up to say Ziggy Ansah. Ansah, however, is a freak of nature. Nearly as strong and heavy as Coples, Ziggy's agility and lateral motion blows Cople's out of the water. Similarly, Coples will never match up to a player like Mingo in coverage skills and reach tackling.
Still, Rex worked Coples out exensively in coverage drills at his pro day. Ryan, an innovator in hybrid defenses, is sure to have some packages designed to get the most out of Cople's abilities. Playing him as a DE/LB "Predator" similar to Aldon Smith's role in San Francisco's 4-3 Under or Chris Clemons in Seattle.
The 4-3 Under:
Potential Line Up:
- DE/LB - Coples
- DT - Richardson
- NT - Ellis / Garay
- DE - Wilkerson
- OLB - Barnes/Pace/Sapp
- Strongside MLB - David Harris
- Weakside ILB - Dermario Davis
- CB - Cromartie
- CB - Milliner
- S - Landry
- S - Allen/Bush
According to Pete Carrol, the Predator is the best pass rusher on the team, playing as the defensive end to the open side of the field. That puts him on the quarterback's blind side and makes him a C gap player in this defense. We often align him wider than this in order to give him a better angle of attack and allow him to play in space.
(He) has to be one of your best football players. Size does not matter as much. We want an athletic player who can move around.
Meanwhile, the other defensive end (Wilkerson on the strong side) won't get as many advantageous pass-rushing opportunities and needs to be able to play the run well. He needs to be able to shed double teams on the inside and collapse the pocket, which we know Wilkerson can do.
Finally, the other two linebackers have defined roles. The middle linebacker may have to get away from the guard on the strong side (in this case, the LG). David Harris would likely take this spot. That leaves Davis as the Weak Side Linebacker.
Rex should be able to design pressures and mask blitzes using this 4-3 hybrid. Isolating Coples on the outside is a match up I look forward to seeing. Assuming that Coples can cover, he just might be our answer.
But what if the Coples experiment doesn't pan out? Even with Quinton's transition, the LB position remains arguably the biggest question mark on the team. Idzik has stated that the Jet's weren't done in Free Agency. Potential positions include Safety, Tight End, and back up QB. I would argue however for additional depth at the LB position. In particular, targeting Daryl Smith, 31.
Potentially the most underrated 3 down Linebacker in the NFL (the dude doesn't even have highlight reel on youtube), Smith amassed more than 100 tackles seven years in a row. In his 8 season career, Smith has recorded 21.5 sacks, 6 interceptions, 9.5 forced fumbles.
From a formation perspective, the move makes sense. It's doubtful the Jet's are going to transfer into a complete 4-3 Defense. In the 3-4 it's hard to imagine Coples thriving, he's simply to big and slow to cover smaller receivers. Que Daryl Smith.
So why has Smith received limited interest as Unrestricted Free Agent? The obvious answer is he might be too old and battered. Sustaining a knee injury that caused him to miss almost ten games, Smith recovered and played the final game vs Patriots, recording 4 tackles. Wear and tear is most likely starting to take effect, though it's hard to know for sure if it has slowed his 4.67 speed.
If Smith is up for grabs for cheap, I think Idzik would be remiss not to take him. He has been the definition of steadfast and a leader. He could mentor Davis, force Harris to step up his game by providing legit competition, and provide insurance to the Cople's experiment. In my mind, Smith would have been a much better signing than Goodson (which I was never a fan of).
We have approximately 13 million in cap space. If one of our resident cap gurus could gauge the realism of signing Daryl to a contract at around 3 million a year, that would be rad.