The Coples Conundrum

Much digital ink has been spilled here on GGN regarding the situation surrounding Quinton Coples. Just a week ago, rminton posted an excellent piece detailing how Coples, from a stats-based approach, possibly improved quite a bit this past season. I am not coming from that perspective though and instead will be looking at how the Jets might be able to get optimum productivity out of Coples.

Note: none of what I am theorizing is really based on actual stats, but is more on the eye test. I understand that that's not the best way of going about things, and it's not like I've actually studied any game film on him, but just bear with me and let me know if your eye test argues with mine.


Coples in college played 2 positions: 4-3 DT and 4-3 DE. His best season from a production standpoint was his junior year, in which he posted 10 sacks playing inside at DT and was named All 1st Team ACC. Prior to his senior season, Coples was moved to 4-3 DE in the hopes that his immense athleticism could be of best use there, but he actually saw his production drop as he only posted 7.5 sacks. Still, the Jets drafted Coples in the 1st round and he produced pretty well as a rookie, finishing with 5.5 sacks while playing DE. The Jets, after drafting Sheldon Richardson, decided to move Coples to OLB to fill their void at that position. Coples had a fairly underwhelming season, finishing with just 4.5 sacks and being one of the worst pass rushing OLB's according to PFF stats.

The Problem

Coples does have various strengths. He seems to be a pretty solid run defender, both at the DE and OLB positions. He also happens to be extremely strong and can use his brute strength to his advantage. Based on both anecdotal evidence from this season, as well as his stellar work as a DT in college, Coples is really good at penetrating the pocket from the inside. When Coples plays on the inside, he has the potential to dominate. Coples also showed a lot of potential playing as a 3-4 DE in some sets this year, something noted by Xes&Oes.

The problem though lies in the fact that the Jets had to use Coples at OLB this year and I think it's pretty clear that Coples struggles with various aspects of playing pass-rush OLB. While he is extremely athletic, he doesn't really have the speed at all to make a dent in the pass rush by using speed moves. He simply can't get around tackles and get can only make leeway when he somehow gets inside of them. This is far less of a problem when he plays 4-3 DE as it is much easier to get inside of the tackles when you are starting off with your hand in the dirt.

Fortunately for the Jets, but unfortunately for Coples, the Jets are absolutely stacked on the DL and there really isn't much use for Coples. Additionally, the Jets pretty much must use Coples at OLB so long as they don't have any better options. This pretty much neuters the idea of him playing at DL.

Possible Solution

I think the Jets really have to use Coples as a sort of jackknife, perhaps in the mold that Rex used Adalius Thomas in Baltimore (yes, I am aware Thomas was quicker but he could also be used at many many positions). I really don't have a problem with him playing OLB on rushing downs as I really feel he is quite capable against the run. The issue is playing him at OLB on passing downs, which just seems to be a complete waste of Coples ability. The Jets need to draft or sign a pass rush specialist so that Coples isn't needed at OLB on passing downs.

The best area for Coples to probably play on passing downs is at DT or DE (regardless of 4-3 or 3-4). While the Jets are stacked enough on the DL to the point that Coples can't be a DL starter, I really don't see why Coples can't play DL on passing downs. Damon Harrison is strictly a 2 down player, so he's going to get subbed out anyhow on passing downs. Enter Quinton Coples: if the Jets play a 3-4, they can move Mo Wilkerson inside (a position he will still dominate) and play Coples at End. If they play 4-3 on passing downs, just have Coples team up with Kenrick Ellis (whom I actually feel is a pretty gifted pass rusher for an NT) on the inside to create a fearsome front. Lastly, in the jackknife situation mentioned above, I think Rex can create mass confusion with Coples on any down. Rex can line him up at OLB and have him move to DT at the snap. Rex can do the reverse and have Coples suddenly drop back to OLB at the snap. If the defense has no idea where Coples is coming from or where he's going, it's a huge win for the Jets defense.

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