New York Jets – The Coples Conundrum

Frank Giasone on the struggles of New York Jets defensive lineman/outside linebacker Quinton Coples

There have been a lot of questions and concerns surrounding New York Jets OLB/DE Quinton Coples this season, as expectations for a breakout second year have been tempered following a slow start for the former first round pick out of UNC.

The last time we saw the “real” Quinton Coples, he was manhandling Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert in the preseason, forcing a fumble as he threw the quarterback to the MetLife turf. That was the same play, in fact, where we saw Coples go down with a hairline fracture in his ankle.

I’d be kidding myself if I said I had a definitive answer to what has sent Coples seemingly into the Witness Protection Program. Truth is, this early season “slump” is likely a combination of a number of factors. But I wanted to take a closer look to try and pinpoint what issues specifically are contributing to a complete lack of production.

No. 1: Is He Healthy? This seems to be the most popular opinion, and my best guess as to what sent his production into a standstill in 2013. Considering Coples’ ankle injury suffered during that pre-season game in late August required surgery, it’s really not fair for anyone to expect immediate results upon his return–despite his unusually quick rehab. Realistically, the fact that he was even able to get back on the field as quickly as he did is an impressive feat in its own right, and is something he should be commended for.

But while it’s fair to say that the ankle will slow down his ability to impact games (and evolve as an OLB), it’s not an excuse for his disappearing act the past few weeks.  If you’re not healthy enough to help the team on the field, you probably shouldn’t be on the field (which appears to be Rex’s philosophy of late, as Coples has seen Garrett McIntyre take a number of his snaps over the past few weeks).

It’s tough to play doctor from your living room couch, but from what I’ve seen, it doesn’t look like he’s favoring the ankle. He still looks pretty quick and fluid in his movement, and has shown some of the things that made him a top 20 draft pick in 2012. Where he’s lacking, though, is in his ability to transition from speed to power, as TOJ Staff Writer Mike O’Conner (and others) highlighted following the Jets Monday night game in Atlanta two weeks ago (pictured below).


On this play, Coples, lined up in the five technique, shows off his burst by flying off the line after quarterback Matt Ryan (seen below). QC2

Coples is one of the first Jets DL out of his stance, as he flies past Atlanta LT Lamar Holmes with an inside move. This shows me that Coples’ quickness isn’t the issue hampering his production right now. QC3

The transition from speed to power, though, is quickly becomes an issue as Coples, who has QB Matt Ryan within reach, gets stoned by Atlanta running back, Jacquizz Rodgers (5’6″, 197 pounds).  QC4

This sequence of events may be a result his leg lacking strength  Whatever the case, it’s pretty clear that something isn’t right. Seeing QC completely neutralized by a RB half his size is, at the very least, alarming.

No. 2: What Impact Does the Position Change Have? This is bit overblown, in my opinion, as Coples assignment as Rex’s “Rush Linebacker” since returning from injury has been very similar to Coples original designation in his rookie year on the defensive line. Yes, Rex has asked QC to help in coverage slightly more often this year. And yes, Coples has struggled to adapt to that part of the position change. But if you take a closer look, it’s pretty evident that Coples’ responsibilities the past few weeks have been that of a DE, not an OLB.

Against Pittsburgh, Coples only played one snap at OLB (thanks once again to Mike O’Connor for his snap count stats), compared to 37 snaps at the three/five technique. This has been the case for a few weeks now, which basically makes the “Can Coples play OLB” question futile.

No. 3: A Lack of Fire? Coples had the dubious distinction of being tagged as a guy who “lacks the necessary fire” during the 2012 pre-draft process, after his production declined following an impressive junior year. And while many people have been wrong when judging the character of drafties, it’s still something to consider–assuming, of course, that the lack of intensity on tape isn’t related to previously mentioned ankle injury.

It’s hard to make a distinction like this about a player when you have no actual evidence of their work ethic or desire. Because of that, I almost didn’t include this category in the article. But it’s something to think about, especially when you look at how easily he’s been neutralized this season. If a lack of fire is causing a lack of production, Rex will need to employ his best motivational tactics on the highly-touted pass rusher.

DiagnosisIn the end, I think it’s pretty clear that the ankle isn’t 100 percent yet (Coples was actually quoted as saying as much following the loss to Pittsburgh). The fact that he got back on the field so quickly (after showing some promise in the pre-season), got some people a little over-hyped about his ability to come back and impact games –possibly including Rex Ryan.

While Rex has been playing to QC’s strengths the past few weeks, Coples has yet to respond. In my opinion (again, without any insider information) the smartest thing to do would be to sit him down, even if it’s for a few weeks, to ensure that his ankle is fully healed. He’s becoming somewhat of a liability when he’s on the field, and Rex is getting better production from other guys on the roster, including McIntyre (who looks to have improved since last season).

Hopefully this becomes a non-issue following Sunday’s game against New England. But if he continues to struggle the way he has, something has to be done to correct the issue. If it’s ignored, forcing Coples out there could continue to haunt the defense…possibly for the rest of the season.

Author: Frank Giasone

Frank is a graduate of Montclair State University in New Jersey where he earned a degree in English with a minor in Journalism. Born and raised in New Jersey, Frank has more than five years experience in print and online media, having worked as a writer and editor with The Progress Newspaper,, and The Montclairion. Frank will help provide TOJ with coverage of the 2013 NFL Draft, and assist with Jets/NFL coverage.

  • KAsh

    The question with Q’s move for me was always going to be speed. Coples has good burst, as shown in the images above, but can he make guys heads spin? As a pass rusher, he is very much in the style of Mo and Sheldon, except they both have at least ten pounds on him now. He is only going to start being more effective once he picks up some speed and becomes a danger to beat guys outside. So far, tackles are having an easy time keeping up with him on the outside and therefore he does not threaten them with an inside counter move.

    There is the ankle. There is the position switch (from more of an inside rusher to more of an outside rusher). All of that saps confidence and challenges Q to do things in ways that he is not used to. Right now, the biggest boost could come by switching him to the strong side. More matchups with TEs and less with smaller, quicker RBs and LT combos would be what the doctor ordered.

  • JetOrange

    Coples is a player. If at the end of the season, this OLB doesn’t look like it is working out, would you trade QC ? Coples can play anywhere on the defensive line, I would only trade for premium value, something like Sheard or Mingo OLB’S from the Browns and a second round 2014 pick.

  • Frank Giasone

    I’m not sure how much trade value QC has right now. But Im confident in saying that you’re not getting a very good, young OLB for him…never mind the extra pick. There’s just too much of a premium put on OLBs in this league.

    If the Jets feel they can’t convert him to a Rush LB (they won’t make that decision any time soon), then they’ll probably work him back into the rotation on the DL, giving him a chance to regularly contribute from the 3/5 tech.

    It’s too soon for any of this, though. He’s young and coming off the injury. I’m sure they’ll be patient with his development at LB.

  • KAsh

    Exactly. Right now, they are working him back in at LB. In the preseason, we saw the role he was supposed to have: a rushing linebacker but an every-down presence. To recoup his injury, they probably have him working in his old role on the d-line, at which he was good, but not great last year.

  • Anthony


    Tell me more about how coples lacks the ability to threatened the outside. He ran a 4.69 40 time at the combine and on the tape above destroyed a left tackle who was terrified of letting coples get outside of him.

    How about how good but not great he was when he got 5.5 sacks last year in about 50% of team snaps.

    Please give me some more lazy, sloppy, long winded couch potato scouting reports because they are so accurate and brilliantly written.

  • KAsh


    What you misunderstood:

    1) Coples ran a 4.78 at the combine. The 4.69 was the unofficial, human measurement. He was the sixth fastest d-lineman that year. If you take the results from the past two years together, Coples is tied for the fourteenth-best time. Linebackers blow him out of the water.

    2) He started playing snaps as a rush linebacker at the end of last year. Around the same time, he got hot and tallied 3.5 sacks or every sack that year outside of his two in October against the Colts.

    3) If you watched Coples the past three weeks, you would see some troubling signs. He is not putting the tackles off balance. They are shuffling him outside, past the quarterback. When he does it from the linebacker position, he does not even have the opportunity to get inside. The only thing he has been doing well is bull rushing the tackle into the quarterback. Unfortunately, he has not yet managed to get around the tackle.

  • Anthony

    @ Kash

    Ok, so you’re saying the 3.5 sacks last year don’t count, and he is suffering no ill effects and this is all just a symptom of Rex not having any idea how to use him?

    Terrell Suggs ran a 4.84
    Jared Allen ran a 4.72
    JJ Watt ran a 4.78
    MArio Williams ran a 4.75

    I can keep going, but the truth is, its pointless. The rush linebacker is not a strictly speed rushing position. It’s about hand movement, bend, power. Additionally nobody seems to talk about how much power is lost when a player is no longer able to rehab using his lower extremities. No more power cleans, squats, kettle bell swings, sprints, box jumps. How do you maintain power when you are no longer able to effectively use the muscles you attack to do so? Dude came back in 3 weeks, he needs time.

    One thing I am pleased with, personally, is his hand movement. I would like to see him get his arms up more to disrupt the pass better, he is the longest of our Defensive Linemen and could at least contribute more in that capacity.