By Ernie Palladino
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Now that everyone has had some time to gnash their teeth and worry themselves sick over the Jets’ 26-3 loss to the Giants, we can get down to some truths about Rex Ryan’s gang.

First of all, don’t worry. Although there’s no saying the Jets are going to make a run at a Super Bowl anytime soon, they’re still not going to be half as bad as Saturday night’s showing. At least you’d better hope not, or it’s going to be a long year.

The fact is, Mark Sanchez played without Santonio Holmes (ribs), Jeremy Kerley (hamstring), and Chaz Schilens (hamstring). So the fact that the passing game looked hopeless was understandable.

And despite Ryan’s Cortland theatrics, with his media blackout of his Wildcat practice, there was no sign in this game of a gambit the Jets will use extensively once the season starts. As for Tim Tebow, the main guy in the Cat, he legitimately proved that as a passer, he’s still a pretty decent tailback. Notice the throwing motion that made him look more like Macbeth dispatching Duncan with a dagger than finding a short receiver.

Lay on, Tim!

But all is not lost, even for a team that failed to score an offensive touchdown in two games or watched, mouth agape, as their punter shanked two in a row and nearly flubbed a third.

This is where we come to the one real gem that was hidden amid the muck-mire of a second preseason game.

Quinton Coples.

The first-round pick did stand out on the defensive line. He looked solid enough in the first half at defensive end. But when he moved inside to DT in the second half, he made a couple of plays worthy of his draft status.

Now, no one is saying here that Coples is ready to push Muhammad Wilkerson, Mike DeVito, or Sione Pouha — once he’s healthy, of course — out of a starting job. But with a little imagination and forethought, one could easily see him being effective in a sub package if he keeps together a focus that tended to wander during his college career.

Coples’ highlights came in quick succession in the fourth quarter against admittedly a makeshift Giants line. Doesn’t matter. In a game where few in green did anything golden, the maneuvering was still impressive.

First, Coples brought down the Giants’ first-round pick, running back David Wilson for no gain on third-and-long. As Wilson appeared headed for the perimeter, Coples penetrated from the right defensive tackle spot, reached out, and grabbed Wilson’s jersey one-handed, by the fingertips. Wilson, a powerful 5-foot-9, 209-pounder, showed a lot of strength and speed in the offseason program. But he was no match for Coples on that play, as the fellow rookie spun him to the ground.

The play forced Lawrence Tynes’ 45-yard field goal that produced a 19-3 lead, so it was easily lost in the analysis. Be assured, though, that the defensive-minded Ryan noted it well in Sunday’s film session.

On the Giants’ next possession, Coples flew up the middle and blasted Eli Manning’s backup, David Carr, for a three-yard sack on third-and-6. Another strong move that was probably forgotten as soon as T.J. Conley sent the first of two shanks 19 yards on the Jets’ next possession.

One other defender looked good, as reserve linebacker Garrett McIntyre swatted down one of Carr’s third-quarter passes.

Take it for what it’s worth; a rookie and a reserve looking good amid an otherwise miserable and offensively undermanned performance. Those things don’t necessarily translate into regular season wins. But for a team whose real concerns — are you listening, RT Wayne Hunter? — go beyond vanilla preseason game plans and short staffing, Coples and McIntyre provided a glimpse of strong potential.

That alone should suffice to keep the panic in abeyance until halftime against Buffalo, at least.

Do you think Coples is the real deal? Be heard in the comments below…

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