The very nature of an OLB in the 3-4 defense makes it one of the hardest position on the field. They have to be quick on the inside run, prevent the outside run, rush the passer, and also drop back into pass protection. Sometimes, yes they even have to cover the TE in the passing scheme. For this reason, it boggles the mind the Jets have not drafted an OLB in the Rex Ryan era.
Well... sort of. That's what brings us to Coples. He was drafted as a DE but became expendable at that position when we grabbed Sheldon Richardson. Last year marked his first move to OLB. He spent most of the first half of the year injured or at least trying to recover from a fractured ankle and the second half of the year was a mix of him looking good and bad. With Calvin Pace a year older and unlikely to repeat last year's resurgence, we need an OLB of the future to take over the reigns, or someone that can consistently play opposite of Pace.
And that's why Coples needs to prove himself this year. Last year he can attribute his lack of consistent success to switching positions in the offseason and losing preseason time and the first two weeks due to injury.. This year, they're can be no excuses, he needs to step up for the Jets to have success.
Let's start off with this: Coples last year wasn't awful stat wise, in fact the put up a 4.5 sack season playing 14 games, which well, is mediocre. He also added almost 50 tackles to his resume so he's got that going for him. So why do I single him out here?
Because at this stage, we need more, a lot more from him. We need an OLB that can put up rather big numbers and take the pressure off Rex having to use 6-7 guys to bring pressure. Adding another weapon to that would really solidify the defense and make the secondary a lot tougher by proxy. Plus, it's not like we've had superb play from OLB the last few years.
So what do I think would qualify as a successful year? Stats wise, somewhere around 8 sacks would be awesome but that's not all we need. Even better would be to see him constantly set the edge on the run which is probably the second most if not most important part of the job for the OLB. Lastly we need to see him be comfortable dropping back. All of this while also standing up in the 3-4 formation. Basically we need him to be the OLB.
Honestly, the Jets don't need a pro bowl year per se from Coples... however, I think they need him to put the talent together and turn into a serviceable starter at the minimum . Anything less, and the Jets defense will be seriously impacted as well as I think Coples will be probably with a new team. Ideally, he would earning the starting role day one and not be forced into the position out of need. Knowing last year, that's a tough task.
What were looking at here is very simple, Coples needs to be the real deal at OLB in the 3-4. If not, the Jets will once again have to bring more guys and leave the secondary 1 on 1 with the other teams receivers. If he doesn't, let's be honest here, the front 3 can only do so much. Plus the Jets issues with the run late in game will become a real problem without any production from the OLB position.
There is one final point. Coples may not be able to form himself into a true 3-4 DE. However, when the Jets turn into a nickel package, specifically a 2-4-5, they often have him hand down as a DE. The Jets have used him effectively in this role. Even if he fills out this role, it's still not good enough as the Jets do not have two good every down 3-4 OLBs.
What do you all think? Will Coples have a big role in the Jets defense and/or make an impact? Or will he go down as a bad draft pick by the Jets? Or will someone step up and beat him in the role?