On Monday, the New York Jets waived former first-round draft pick Quinton Coples. Coples was drafted 16th overall in the 2012 draft by then head coach Rex Ryan and general manager Mike Tannenbaum. The Miami Dolphins immediately put in a claim for him, beating out the Buffalo Bills based on their record thus far for the 2015 season.
Upon arriving in New York, Coples was immediately thrust into a 3-4 defense as an outside linebacker and he never really fit in. Even with new head coach Todd Bowles and a new defensive staff this season, Coples still didn't fit in and was phased out of the game plan completely over the past few weeks.
Since 2012, he's played in 56 games and has accumulated 111 tackles, 16.5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles. That's an average of 2 tackles, 0.29 sacks and 0.035 forced fumbles per game. Without any comparisons to other players, it's easy to see that these are pedestrian numbers and certainly not worthy of being the 16th pick in the draft.
So, where did everything go wrong? It's hard to judge him based on his time with the Jets because the overwhelming thought process is that he wasn't used the right way. Thus, we need to go back to the scouting reports of when he came out of college.
Looking back, the vast majority of those reports labeled Coples as a can't miss player and one who would disrupt the flow of the game. Some, such as the one from NFL.com, said that he could play the defensive end position in both the 4-3 and 3-4 defensive scheme.
However, others, such as WalterFootball.com, said that he would be best served playing as a 4-3 defensive end like he did for the vast majority of the time at North Carolina. That's because as a junior, he had 59 tackles, 10 sacks, 15.5 tackles for a loss and 2 forced fumbles. In his senior season, Coples saw constant double-teams, but was still able to total 55 tackles, 7.5 sacks, 15 tackles for a loss and 3 forced fumbles. During that year, North Carolina switched between 3-4 and 4-3 and when they did, Coples played a five-tech defensive end.
Here is part of the scouting report from WalterFootball.com:
When Coples gets leverage, it is over. He has too much strength for tackles to hold back and is too fast for them to recover to move in front of. In the NFL, he would be best as a 4-3 defensive end where he can rush the passer with free abandon. Coples has the strength and size to be left defensive end, and when lining up there, his speed has been too much for right tackles to handle. He also has the speed to battle left tackles as a right defensive end. Left tackles don't typically see ends with Coples' power, size and speed. Coples is a solid run defender who holds his ground and can disrupt running plays that go the perimeter on his side. If Coples lands with a good coach who keeps him motivated and focused, he could be a Pro Bowl defensive end.
Everything wasn't all rosy though for Coples. Doug Farrar of Yahoo.com seemed to be the one who hit the nail on the head, when he said the following:
Of course, we can't throw all the blame at the feet of North Carolina's coaching staffs -- there are enough times where Coples comes off the snap late and seems to give up after a hard block instead of re-directing, and this lends legitimacy to the concerns about his overall effort. It's pretty disturbing to see a 6-foot-6, 284-pound guy who can run a 4.78 40 at the combine get rolled up by tight ends and blocking backs as much as he did.
The Julius Peppers comparisons are frequent, but hardly instructive. Peppers may disappear from time to time, but that's the nature of the defensive end position, and he flashed enough to merit elite status going all the way back to his collegiate days. With Coples, it's tough to even peg him as a high-caliber role-player like Arizona's Calais Campbell, a player who has learned to use his size to his great advantage. Instead, Coples' tape very much brings to mind Arkansas' Jamaal Anderson, a 6-foot-6. 288-pound mountain of a man who was selected eighth overall by the Atlanta Falcons in 2007. Anderson never came close to validating his high prospect status, and there was enough on his college tape to make people wonder. Anderson's size/speed combo hoodwinked the Falcons, and though he had his moments as an interior pass rusher, Anderson's NFL career has been an unqualified disappointment to date.
If you simply Google scouting reports for Coples, you will see for yourself just how much he was praised coming out of college. The negative reports on him are rare and after reading them, you sit back and start to wonder what went wrong during his time with the Jets. However, now that he is in Miami, what can we expect from him?
To begin, he has been placed back at the defensive end position where he feels most comfortable. When asked by Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald, Coples told him that it makes him very happy to be playing with his hands in the dirt once again.
You shouldn't underestimate the comfort level for an NFL player. They are sucked into a routine and anything that messes that up can have an impact on their performance. Coples will be able to play football now like he has always known. He'll be able to play without thinking too much and with only one goal in mind - get into the backfield and stop whoever has the football.
That will be seen as early on Sunday against the Jets, as interim head coach Dan Campbell said as much during his press conference on Wednesday.
"He's long, he is athletic, and he gives us not only depth but some versatility. What we know about him is if you put him in base [defense], he's going to be able to set the edge for you."
But how much will he play? Well, we know now that he has taken the place of Chris McCain as a defensive end. McCain has been moved back to the linebacker position, which means that Coples will get the snaps that McCain was getting at defensive end. If he proves himself, he could get quite more and perhaps, move into a starting role as the season winds down.
Besides that, we don't know much more. It's quite possible that Coples could revive his career in Miami. After all, he is still on his rookie contract and is only in his fourth year in the NFL. At just 25 years old, he is ready to hit the prime of his career.
We have all seen busts come and go in the NFL but it seems that Coples has way too much talent to be this big of a bust. Like many have said, he was never used the right way with the Jets and a change of scenery and a scheme change could be just the thing that brings him back to the days where he dominated at North Carolina and was a highly coveted player in the 2012 draft.
Only time will tell.
This column was written by Matthew Cannata. Follow him on Twitter! Follow @FinsInsider