When the Jets drafted defensive end Quinton Coples with the 16th overall pick in April, he was immediately dubbed a starter by coach Rex Ryan.
With the first week of training camp in the books, the Jets have moved Coples out of the starting lineup. Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said that the team will use him in pass rushing situations for the time being after seeing his play slow down as a result of how much he’s trying to learn on the fly.
“We’ll work it from back to front,” Pettine said, via Jenny Vrentas of the Newark Star-Ledger. “He’ll be a third-down guy, similar to [Aaron] Maybin. Get him out there in passing situations and then work him into the base defense. Let him be a back-up for the guys in base, but keep his plate small.”
The move isn’t being sold as a demotion, as Pettine said Coples could still play between 50 and 80 percent of the snaps depending on the opposition. The idea is to have him do comfortable things first and then start feeding him more challenging things as the year goes along. It’s a similar approach to the one they took with 2010 first-round pick Muhammad Wilkerson, who is currently starting at defensive end with Mike DeVito taking the spot once reserved for Coples.
If Coples can help the Jets pass rush improve on last season’s results, there won’t be any complaints about keeping him in that role. If he doesn’t, though, the pre-draft doubts that helped someone of his athletic gifts drop to the 16th pick will crop up again.