If the New York Giants pair of Super Bowl titles in the last four years has taught us anything, it’s that you simply can’t have too many pass rushers. It’s become a quarterback’s game and you need a good one, and you need to affect your opponents.
Regardless of whether the Jaguars re-sign defensive end Jeremy Mincey, add Pro Bowler Mario Williams or acquire Detroit’s Cliff Avril, the team needs to get a young pass rusher that can get to the quarterback. North Carolina’s Quinton Coples can be that player.
At 6-foot-5, 285 pounds, Coples is strong enough and versatile enough to play in either a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme and has played all across the line during his collegiate career.
"I take pride in being versatile,” Coples said. “It definitely has raised my stock in that it lets teams know that I can inside or out.
And I take pride in playing any position from the zero to the nine."
Although Coples sees it as a positive that he’s played all across the defensive line, some feel that playing a new position every year has affected his production.
“You can’t give a guy a different position to play every year and expect to immediately play as well,” Yahoo NFL Analyst Doug Farrar said. “It was unfair.”
Many believe that Coples didn’t give 100 percent effort during his senior season which saw him notch “just” 7.5 sacks. Coples disputes those claims.
"I just keep it honest,” Coples explained. “It was a situation that my coach asked me to do, make a change. I made that change and I think I ran into some things a little more than I should have instead of just playing the game that I love. It kind of affected my game. But overall, I went to the Senior Bowl, I did some things and I showed them that I can compete at the highest level."
Coples did show up in a big way at the Senior Bowl. At 6-foot-5, 285 pounds, Coples looked very lean and was especially dominant in all of the one-on-one drills. The former North Carolina star was clearly the best player in Mobile.
"I think it was very important,” Coples said of his stellar play in Mobile. “I heard the rumors and all the things that were going on about me not playing as hard, so I took it personally. And I made a statement for myself that I can compete outside of the ACC and all across the country."
The easy comparisons made about Coples are to another former North Carolina great, Bears defensive end Julius Peppers. Both are elite athletes with virtually unlimited potential. Quenton tends to shy away from the comparison.
"He's more of a finesse guy,” Coples said of Peppers. “So some of the finesse things that he did as far as being on the edge, getting the hands off, are some of the things that I took. To put into perspective with my game, I'm more of a power guy. I kind of converted some of the things that he did and put them into my game."
How confident is Coples that he can be a great player for any team? He was asked about Mel Kiper once having him as the second-overall player on his draft board.
“I feel like I should be Number 1,” Coples confidently stated.
Although truly confident, Quinton is acutely aware that there are parts of his game which require improvement.
"Just more get-off on the ball,” Quinton explained. “More focused and more practice like a professional. You know, I think I did things right and made plays and that's all well. To be a professional and to be great you have to work hard all the time and do those small things that I did,
but didn't master like I think I should."
Mel Tucker’s defense finished sixth in the NFL last season. They did so without a single Pro Bowler or double-digit sack guy. Jacksonville’s defense could rise to the level of the Pittsburgh’s, Baltimore’s or San Francisco’s with the emergence of a pass rusher.
“One of the things I do and take pride in is getting to the quarterback,” Coples said smiling. “I'm excited about getting to the quarterback, by helping the program get to the Super Bowl and that's how it's going to be."
The one thing we know is that when the Jaguars go on the clock with the seventh-overall pick (assuming they stay there), they will select the highest rated player on their draft board. Forget about the Derrick Harvey comparisons, Quinton Coples is a completely different player and level of athlete. If you’re afraid to make a mistake on drafting a position that you missed on before, you’ll never be able to build a championship caliber team.
Charlie Bernstein is the NFL Insider for ESPNFlorida.com and ESPN 1080 and 1040 in Orlando/Tampa and Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie covers the Jacksonville Jaguars for FoxSports and has been featured on the NFL Network and Sirius NFL Radio. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Charlie on Twitter @nflcharlie