Early Thursday morning, it was reported that the Jets would switch Quinton Coples from a defensive end to an outside linebacker. Coples, the Jets’ first round selection in last year’s draft, has been a defensive end all of his career and played fairly well last year after racking up 5.5 sacks (and that’s only while being on the field a meager 47% of the time). This change will definitely be an uphill battle for the 6’6” 290 pound Coples, who will most likely have to lose some weight if he wants to be effective in pass coverage occasionally.
However, this move helps justify the highly controversial selection of Sheldon Richardson. Personally, it would be foolish of someone to question Richardson’s talent because at Missouri he displayed ample talent that would show his success in the NFL. The only concern with this selection was that Richardson did not fit in with the Jets’ defensive scheme, seeing as they play a 3-4 and they already had 2 young and developing ends in Wilkerson and Coples. Richardson most likely wouldn’t succeed as a nose tackle, and making a complete switch to a 4-3 would be risky and would possibly hurt the Jets. However, with Coples now playing OLB it provides an opportunity for Richardson to start in the Jets current 3-4 scheme as a defensive end. This pick that was viewed as an embarrassment to many Jet fans may pay off because of this new repositioning.
With Coples now at OLB, the Defensive line should consist of Wilkerson, Richardson, and possibly Kendrick Ellis or maybe even sixth round draft pick William Campbell, who may even play on the offensive line instead. All in all, this position change will most likely benefit the Jets greatly because it provides an opportunity for both the rookie Richardson and the young Wilkerson to rush the quarterback from positions they feel comfortable playing. If Coples can be successful at OLB and has the ability to be effective both as a rusher and as a coverage linebacker on occasion, he should have great success.
Due to all these factors, this may be the most impactful position change on the Jets since making Tim Tebow a personal protector last offseason. We can only hope this doesn’t turn out to be just a media move like Tebow’s was.