#10 Defensive End (click the "read more" link below for the full article.
2012 Changes: Added Quinton Coples, Lost Rapati Pitoitua
Last year was a difficult year to grade the performance of the Jets defensive ends. There were times that they were dominant and other times when you just couldn’t believe how little pressure they applied on the opposing team’s quarterback. In terms of stopping running backs they were slow to the point of attack but tackled well enough to deserve a favorable review. This was clearly not the case when defending a running back screen pass. In week 3 the Jets traveled the black hole (Oakland) and the defensive ends might have single handedly lost the game. They allowed Darren McFadden to run all over at will on the perimeter of the field. Tebow had a bit of fun on his last series against us too but we can leave that for another day (yes I just mentioned his name).
Mohammad Wilkerson played very well for a rookie in terms of not making mistakes or being a weakness. I can’t say that he truly stood out though, spare that one sweet safety he had in week 2 against the Jags. He was by far the most consistent and appeared to be effective on both passing and running downs. He stated to show flashes of being a dominant DE by the end of the year. With his first full offseason the Jets expect huge improvement from this young player in 2012. Devito was injured or playing injured almost the entire year. He was a great run stopper when he was healthy enough to stay on the field but a liability on passing downs. Aaron Maybin’s future was touched on yesterday, as for 2011 he showed a lot of potential. When he was asked to be a pass rusher he excelled against slower offensive tackles. The quicker ones would stay with him along the outside and render him useless. He was more of a hot/cold guy that wasn’t very consistent but offered big play potential. When used correctly he can be lethal but he has proven to be just a specialty player at the moment. Marcus Dixon along with Rapati Pitoitua were huge space eaters that rarely made an impact on the stat line but helped free up the outside linebackers to make plays by disrupting the offensive lines of opposing teams.
This group of Defensive ends each brought something unique to the table that helped the Jets defense be the 6th best in the NFL last year. Unfortunately without any of them excelling at all parts of the game the Jets defense had to sub out players almost after every play. This became a logistical nightmare and smarter teams with season QBs (The Patriots for instance) exposed the Jets with a no huddle offense from time to time. This forced the personnel to stay on the field and play to their weaknesses. Such drives happened in almost every one of the Jets 8 losses.
In the 2012 offseason the Jets chose not to resign Rapati and they drafted Quinton Coples from North Carolina with their first round pick. Coples, like any draft pick, is an unproven player. They Jets can afford to let him grow into his future role but expect him to start this year. It would be a major improvement if he can join Wilkerson and be the permanent bookends to the defensive line. This stability would not only allow the Jets to sub less but it would also prevent personnel changes from telegraphing the thoughts of the defense to the opposing offense. The Jets were the #1 Defense in 2009 and #3 in 2010 partly because they were excellent at hiding their true intentions. Defensive ends can be the riskiest pick that a team can make in the first round of the draft but let’s hope that the Jets can add Coples name to the list with Shaun Ellis and John Abraham and not that list with Vernon Gholson on it…