One big position of need outside of wide receiver for the Jacksonville Jaguars is at defensive end. Despite the fact that the Jaguars were able to bring back their leading sacker from last season in Jeremy Mincey, the team still needs another defensive end. It's possible Aaron Kampman could finally be healthy and return to the line up, but banking on a 30+ year old defensive end with two knee tears in two seasons would be a mistake.
The team also will appear to lose Matt Roth in free agency, so a defensive end will likely be high on their priority list for the NFL Draft. Most people have North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples as their top rated 4-3 defensive end and he's certainly a player with massive upside. Coples has the ability to play both right and left defensive end at the NFL level and even kick inside on passing downs to offer an interior rush. Coples, in my opinion, has the ability to be an elite NFL left end.
I'll need to say first, when watching the cut up of Coples you have to remember that in the NFL his position is going to be at the left end position and you have to remember the duties of the left end in a typical 4-3 scheme. The end does help provide a pass rush, but he also needs to be able to do things like set the edge, anchor in the run game, and be able to contain on the backside. These are all things Coples does well as well as a nice job of rushing the passer, but he may never be that double-digit sack guy on a consistent basis. With that said, let's get started.
The first play of the game is a running play in which Coples avoids the cut block and does a nice job coming from the backside in pursuit to get a hit on the ball carrier. Once he sees the play is not being cut back to his side, he pursues the ball carrier. This is a standard play and duty of an end in the 4-3. Not really anything special, but you like to see a guy play his assignment correctly through the play.
The next play is another running play with Coples lined up at right end, which was an entirely new position for him at North Carolina and should not be his NFL position. He does do a nice job of anchoring against the left tackle however and not giving up ground and the run goes for a minimal gain because the hole doesn't open.
Now on to a passing play, this is one of the areas Coples game needs refinement at the next level to really unlock his potential. Coples is lined up at right end on the play and rushes quarterback Jacory Harris on the play action. As you can see, his initial punch is absorbed by Brandon Washington and Washington stands Coples up. Coples tries to rip free, but doesn't seem to use a swim or an uppercut with his left arm or anything to break the block and Washington is able to ride him out of the play. If Coples had done one of these moves and broken free, he'd likely have sacked Harris or changed the trajectory of the throw.
On the next play, Coples again engages Washington on the rush and begins fighting through and dips to get away. Washington grabs on again and Coples draws the holding call. Had Washington not held Coples up, it was a likely sack. Either way, it was a nice rush by Coples and he forced a holding call which is often a drive killing penalty. After the holding call, Miami begins having the left guard assist Washington and often adding in chips to slow Coples down as the Miami staff clearly feels he's going to start getting the better of Washington.
The next play I want to highlight, Coples doesn't really effect the play much but he's double up by the tight end and the running back as the left tackle blocks inside. I wanted to highlight it because Coples keeps working through the double team and never stops trying to break free. He has a lot of people that question his motor and consider him "lazy". Frankly, people with that attribute give up on plays like this and let themselves just get blocked out of the play. But, as you can see Coples continues to fight through it even though he doesn't really have a chance to get to the quarterback. I've asked some people close to the North Carolina program and some scouts their thoughts on Coples motor and drive, and most categorized him as playing "bored" at times more so than lacking motor or being lazy.
A few plays later, Coples is once again at right end and going against Brandon Washington. Coples is trying to come around the edge after Washington engages him and this time Coples is trying to break free of the block instead of just trying to run around Washington and he forces Jacory Harris to roll out of the pocket. All the while, Washington is still holding on to Coples and Coples once again draws the holding call. It's not a sack, but as I mentioned with Whitney Mercilus sometimes pressure is just as good as a sack and pressure can cause multiple different negative plays. On this one, it pushes the Hurricanes into a potential third and long situation, but North Carolina smartly refuses the penalty and forces a punt.
Here is another running play where Coples does an excellent job and disrupts the play. I'm picking out a few running plays, because like I mentioned before Coples will be a left end in the NFL and this is an important area for a left end, especially if they're an every down player. Coples drives the left tackle backwards and wide and into the running lane, forcing the running back to cut back inside for a loss on the play. This again is an area Coples really excels at.
Finally, here is a third and long play where Coples just beats Washington off the edge and forces Harris out of the pocket. Luckily for Miami, Harris is a very capable runner and is able to get out of the pocket and pick up the first down. Most quarterbacks however aren't going to do that and will either be picked up by on of the interior lineman or caught by a linebacker short of the first down. The next couple of plays after that one, Coples begins to get the better of Washington and just starts beating him off the edge and effecting the quarterback.
Like I pointed out with Whitney Mercilus, sacks are nice, but you can't always just look at sack numbers to determine if a player has a good game or not. Coples finished the game against Miami with just one sack, but his effect on the game was much more than that if you factor in the holding calls he drew and his effect on the running game.
A lot of people compare Coples to former North Carolina defensive end Julius Peppers, but he's not going to be Peppers. For me, Coples reminds of someone on the New York Giants, but not Jason Pierre-Paul. He reminds me more of Justin Tuck who's a power player with some edge rushing ability and can kick inside on third and long. I personally think Coples is worth a Top 10 selection and don't have any fears about his motor after talking with people and watching him in person at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, AL. Some teams might however and that's something they're going to have to do their due diligence on.
If I were the Jacksonville Jaguars, I would absolutely consider Coples with the No. 7 overall pick and think he would be a perfect plug-and-play player at the left end position on this team, but I personally don't think the Jaguars will draft him based on things I've heard and the vibe I get from people close to the organization.