FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Quinton Coples expects to make things a bit more miserable for opposing quarterbacks this season.
The Jets are moving Coples to outside linebacker after he had a solid rookie season at defensive end. The team’s first-round draft pick last year out of North Carolina confirmed the position switch Thursday during the Jets’ first open locker room media session since last season.
Coples led New York with 5 1/2 sacks while playing defensive end and defensive tackle as a rookie.
“I feel good,” Coples said. “I think it’s definitely going to open up more opportunities for me to get to the quarterback and also show my athleticism and coverage.”
Coples played at 290 pounds last year and says he will be between 280 and 285 this season – still a bit bulky for an outside linebacker whose main job is to rush the passer. The Jets clearly think Coples will be able to make a seamless transition and be effective in a role that New York needs someone to step up in.
The Jets recently re-signed Calvin Pace and signed free-agent Antwan Barnes, both pass-rushing outside linebackers. But both Pace and Barnes had only three sacks last season, so using Coples at the spot will give Rex Ryan and defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman some added flexibility.
“I definitely feel like I have to go out and make a lot more plays than I did last year,” Coples said. “Being that I’ve mastered the playbook and have a year of experience under my belt, I definitely think that coming from the outside will definitely help me.”
Teammate DeMario Davis predicted “a big year” for Coples at OLB.
“It’s cool man. The way he’ll be utilized will be still a D-lineman type,” said Davis. “He’ll be able to play out and space more, and he’s an athlete, so he’ll be able to play out in space more.”
The fact that the Jets have some depth on the defensive line likely played into the switch. New York drafted Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson with the 13th overall pick last week, and he’ll likely pair with Muhammad Wilkerson, Antonio Garay and Kenrick Ellis as the Jets use some more 4-3 defensive fronts this season. New York also has Damon Harrison, Junior Aumavae and Tevita Finau on the defensive line.
While Coples doesn’t have a lot of experience at linebacker, Ryan worked him out there during his pro day and had him practice there briefly last spring.
“I’m new to this,” Coples said, “but at the end of the day, I’ve been working on it so I’m ready for it.”
Note: WR Stephen Hill, the team’s second-round pick a year ago, is looking to bounce back from a disappointing rookie season in which he had 21 catches for 252 yards and three touchdowns, and ended up on injured reserve after spraining a knee ligament. He had surgery in December, but is feeling completely healthy now. “I really don’t even think about the performance last year,” he said. “I know I just have to get better every year. You’re going to have flaws, faults and things like that. I’m just ready to just get this stuff started.”
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