Quinton Coples knows he has to shed the label of potential and become a bonafide star on this defense.
Much was expected of Coples, a former first-round pick who head coach Rex Ryan touted as a keystone addition following the 2012 NFL Draft. But after a quiet rookie season adjusting to the 3-4 defense – Coples played end in a 4-3 at North Carolina – he went through another position change in 2013. He went from playing with his hand in the dirt to having more responsibilities in coverage.
Coples found out he might be moved to outside linebacker “right before minicamp” last season after he put on size to play end. He said the move to outside linebacker was made official before training camp, meaning he was trying to make the transition to playing standing up with the added weight to play defensive end.
After a 2013 campaign that saw its fair share of ups and downs, Coples is ready for what he hopes will finally be a season of stability and growth.
A slimmer Coples sat down for an interview with Metro New York following the start of organized team activities.
Will you play at outside linebacker this year exclusively or some combination with defensive end?
It can be anything. Basically a hybrid. I will be anywhere from zero [lined up over center] to linebacker. I can be placed anywhere. Safety, anything (laughing). I'll just let you see it.
You spent last offseason thinking you would be returning to the defensive line, then come workouts and minicamp and suddenly, you're playing standing up. How has an offseason knowing your role helped, especially as you continue to transition to outside linebacker?
Tremendously. That's what I've been working on, being an outside linebacker. [I am] working on my drops, working on my coverage. I dropped 15 pounds. I'm faster too. Anytime you lose weight, you get faster.I think I'm in better shape for that role, for all the versatility it asks for.
What was the biggest part of that position change? You did play some outside linebacker at North Carolina, but that was in a 4-3 so the responsibilities are different.
Yeah, it was different than here — reading offensive personnel, seeing who I have. Then when the motion goes, my zone responsibilities — if there's an exchange. It was a lot. It was different than what I did in my rookie year.Nothing physical about it was tough, just responsibility, learning who to cover, following motion, those sorts of things. But there was nothing they asked me to do that I couldn't do. It is just learning what I need to do. I feel I understand it better this year.
Last season, head coach Rex Ryan called you out a bit, in particular about your weight room ethic. Is that something you took to heart?
Yeah, definitely. Anytime a coach says that about you, you have to step up and make it happen. That's what I'm doing this year. I want to be known as one of those guys who takes care of his business in the weight room, on the practice field and then on gameday. That's who I want to be, and that is something I focused on this offseason — being that type of a player and leader.