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Jets counting on Coples to spark pass rush

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By Kevin Fishbain

Before the draft, Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum told reporters, “I think it always comes back to ‘take the best player.’ … Really, as best we can, if things go our way next Thursday, we’re just going to take the best football player.”

That helps explain the Jets taking DE Quinton Coples, a top-10 talent who slipped to No. 16, but a player at a position — defensive end, five-technique — that is not necessarily a large need for the Jets.

Last year, the Jets spent their first-round pick on DE Muhammad Wilkerson, who had a very impressive rookie season, starting every game and leading the team with 13 tackles for loss. Last year, Rex Ryan compared Wilkerson to Trevor Pryce. This year, when asked about how Coples can help the Jets’ need for a pass rush, Ryan mentioned Pryce, Richard Seymour and Shaun Ellis.

Coples had 15½ sacks and 10 sacks as a junior, but his production dipped as a senior, raising questions about his work ethic and competitiveness.

“What happened last year is what happened last year,” Coples told reporters. “I’m looking forward to being one of the best pass rushers.”

If any coach can get the most out of Coples, it’s Ryan, who can be creative and move Coples around the formation.

“Rex is the leader, has set the tone obviously, but it means a lot more than just one person for what we’re trying to build here,” Tannenbaum said in regards to Ryan’s ability to motivate Coples.

The way we hear it, Coples’ presence shouldn’t affect Wilkerson, who will remain a starter, and coincidentally was a teammate of Coples’ at Hargrave Military Academy. It will make it harder for Ropati Pitoitua to get on the field, as the team’s three D-ends are Mike DeVito, Wilkerson and Coples. Ryan wouldn’t commit, but Coples is expected to start opposite Wilkerson, with DeVito filling in on a situational basis. Marcus Dixon is also available for the rotation as a versatile pass rusher.

The Jets did have a need for a pass-rushing linebacker, but it seemed that Ryan and the Jets weren’t in the mind of having Coples move positions, like they did with Vernon Gholston, and Ryan made it clear the two are very different situations when asked to compare.

“Vernon having to go from his hand in the dirt to standing up, a total different position,” Ryan explained. “(Coples), what he does, which is put his hand in the dirt and rush the passer … this young man is staying with his hand in the dirt.”

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