Quinton Coples has had a long journey over the past three years with the New York Jets. The former first round pick has bounced around from being a defensive end to a nose tackle and playing outside linebacker. Now with a new head coach, 2015 appears to be no different for Coples.
He will continue to bounce around and frankly, said he will love every minute of it. No true position? No worries he says - “Just get me on the field.”
Coples does not have a defined role with this Jets team, who will instead use him in different assignments as the situation dictates. This means more of the same for Coples, who will line up along the defensive line when need be and play outside linebacker as well. It is a challenge he relishes, versatility he says makes him important and valuable on this defense. As the NFL gets more specialized with the rise of designated pass rushers and third-down backs, Coples versatility and broad skillset is rare.
When he came out of college, then head coach Rex Ryan raved about Coples, who has long arms and a good burst. He saw the former North Carolina defensive lineman as a possible outside linebacker but ended up using Coples primarily with his hands in the dirt. Ryan had worked out Coples during his Pro Day and fell in love with him during the workout.
To date, Coples hasn't quite produced to the level that most fans would expect of a first round pick. But his value to the defense is in an athletic ability that allows him to play anywhere along the defensive line or at linebacker with little to no drop-off.
“This defense is the same, it's just different terminology. It puts me in different situations to be successful,” Coples told Metro last month during minicamp.
“I'm the guy who can cover, who can rush the quarterback, who has to set the edge, who sometimes has to get into the 3-technique with his hand in the dirt. It varies. Whatever the defense calls, I can do it and I want to do it.
“I don't think it is an issue for me that I don't have one set role, one defined position.”
This year, with Todd Bowles on the sidelines, Coples loses the head coach who drafts him, the man who drooled during his workout before the draft. But already, it has become apparent that Bowles values this versatility that is a blessing and a curse.
A blessing, because it gets him on the field in different roles. A curse, because he is always being bounced around all over the field. It isn't the most glamorous role. Coples shrugs off the idea, rambling off the old cliches that it is about what is best for the team, that he just wants to win...individual accolades just don't matter.
All athletes say it but with Coples, it seems so very real and true.
While talking with Metro about his role with the team, Jets starting nose tackle Damon Harrison grabs the digital voice recorder being used for the interview. He stands there and listens as Coples smirks, trying to keep a straight face during the interview.
Harrison waits patiently, acting like a reporter during this one-on-one interview. When Coples finishes talking, Harrison perks up. He's primed, he's ready.
“How do you think Quinton Coples is different now then the Quinton Coples of 2012?”
It is a tremendous question.
“I think experience, being able to play for three years and getting that experience, understanding the concept and scheme of the 3-4,” Coples said. “It is more mental then physical. Physically I've been able to play the game but mentally, that's where I've grown. I'm much more comfortable now with my understanding of the game.”
Harrison nods and then smiles, handing the voice recorder back. He hits Coples in the face with a towel. Apparently, his teammate gave a good answer.