04/30/2012 - While locker room dissension was the popular explanation as to why the Jets cratered last season, the continued aging of a once-potent defense was at least partially to blame for the fall to .500. The Jets made some immediate upgrades in head coach Rex Ryan's area of expertise by spending three of their first four picks on defensive players in the draft. The Jets, who recorded just 35 sacks last year while allowing 363 points, addressed their pass rush by selecting defensive end Quinton Coples in the first round (16th overall) and outside linebacker Demario Davis in the third round. The Jets also added valuable depth to a thin and injury-prone secondary by picking safety Josh Bush in the sixth round. BEST PICK: Defensive end Quinton Coples: Comes with his share of detractors after a relatively quiet senior season, but the instant connection between Rex Ryan and Coples at the latter's Pro Day bodes well for Ryan's ability to get the most out of Coples, who had 17.5 sacks in his last two years at North Carolina. The Jets badly need a legitimate pass rusher and Coples could become the first Jets player to record double-digit sacks since John Abraham since 2005. - The Sports Xchange
If size, strength and 33-inch arms can somehow be a blessing and a curse for a defensive lineman, then Coples fits the bill.
He racked up 17.5 sacks the past two seasons while seeing time at end and tackle, yet arrived at the Scouting Combine dogged by questions about his inconsistency and a perception that his motor doesn't run at 100 percent on every play.
"You know, I'm a big guy. I'm a long-strider, things of that nature, so where it may come fast to me in a game, on film it's slowing down a little bit," Coples said. "People have their own opinions. Some people don't even think it was a problem. So it's different opinions and you just go for what it is."
The North Carolina coaching staff asked Coples to slide inside to tackle in the middle of 2011, a move he originally resisted. But the 30 pounds he has added since joining the Tar Heels program showed as he finished with 59 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss and 10 sacks.
The move allowed him to show off his versatility, but also created some question as to where Coples will fit best in NFL schemes. Despite his success inside last year, Coples' height, long arms and burst off the snap could make him a real force off the edge.
"I take pride in being versatile," he said. "It definitely has raised my stock in that it lets teams know that I can inside or out.
"I'm definitely prepared for whatever defensive scheme that a team has."
Wherever teams project Coples, he is the most physically gifted defensive lineman in this draft - rated the top defensive endl prospect by NFLDraftScout.com - and enjoyed a strong week at the Senior Bowl.
"I heard the rumors and all the things that were going on about me not playing as hard, so I took it personally," Coples said of his Senior Bowl experience. "And I made a statement for myself that I can compete outside of the ACC and all across the country."
It's not Coples' physical skills that are holding him back from an even higher draft grade. The questions about his propensity to disappear from the stat sheet for stretches at a time wasn't helped by the perception that he resisted the move back to tackle last season for fear that it would hurt his draft stock.
"A lot of people have a lot of high expectations for me, and I appreciate that," Coples said. "But when you're playing the game of football, you have things that happen that don't go as planned. I think it was a situation that happened that I learned from, I matured from, and I think I'll reap the benefits at the next level."
Coples said he's his own harshest critic, so he can handle the negative things said about him. And he claims to be ready to take on the duties of starring in the NFL.
"To be a professional and to be great you have to work hard all the time," he said. "And do those small things that I did, but didn't master like I think I should."
Pass rush: Good burst off the snap, but his speed and flexibility to dip and rip around the edge as a traditional right defensive end isn't certain. Powerful. Has an excellent bull rush and uses his long arms to keep offensive linemen away from his body to dictate the action. Doesn't possess elite lateral agility or closing speed, but gains ground quickly because of his length. Is a strong drag-down tackler capable of pulling down the quarterback while still engaged with a blocker. Uses his hands well. Features a strong rip move, good swim and anticipation of the cut block, showing the quick hands, feet and balance to sprawl. Alert defender who will get his hands up to cloud passing lanes.
Run defense: Lacks the bulk teams are looking for in a three-down defensive tackle. Comes off the snap high but has excellent strength to quickly stand up his opponent. Good hand placement and upper-body strength to stack and shed blocks. Can swim inside, get skinny and beat doubles. Has enough lateral agility and length that running backs can't escape when he's near. Funnels action to teammates. Good lateral agility and balance to play the keys and pursue laterally.
Explosion: Explosive strength to rock the offensive lineman back onto his heels. Can generate ferocious hits when he gets some momentum.
Strength: Among his best assets. Can easily bull rush most offensive linemen and plow them backward into the pocket. Struggles with leverage when playing defensive tackle and can get pushed off the ball early in the play, but ultimately recovers because of his strength.
Tackling: Good drag-down tackler. Can latch on to ballcarriers with just one arm and slow them enough for teammates to clean up the trash. Long arms allow him to "catch" opponents and wrestle them to the ground. Lowers his head too often when making contact. Good effort in lateral pursuit. Will leave his feet and lunge at the ballcarrier, showing the explosiveness to knock his opponent down without wrapping up. Few ballcarriers are able to escape his grasp, long arms and strength.
Intangibles: Investigated by the NCAA for attending draft-day parties with former teammates Marvin Austin and Robert Quinn, but was ultimately cleared of any wrongdoing. Added 30 pounds since signing with North Carolina. Immaturity and selfishness apparent when asked to move back inside to defensive tackle in the middle of his senior season; he refused for fear it would hurt his draft stock.
NFL Comparison: Julius Peppers, Bears