FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Here’s the coach of the New York Jets, in rookie minicamp, discussing the attributes his No. 1 draft pick showed in college:
“I liked his strength setting the edge, his ability to rush the passer with not only the number of sacks, but the amount of times he was able to affect the quarterback. Things like that kept popping off the screen.”
Rex Ryan on Quinton Coples? Uh, not exactly.
It was Eric Mangini, four years ago, talking up Vernon Gholston.
Moral of the story: It’s always best to use a filter when listening to a coach comment on his freshly minted draft class. Because, you know, every draft is the greatest — until the games start.
With that mind, we bring you Rex on the Class of 2012.
Ryan, who took a shot at media types the other day by saying he found it “hilarious” they would criticize the Jets’ draft, offered a vigorous defense Saturday of their eight-member class.
He raved about their first three choices, defensive end Quinton Coples (“He’s going to play a ton … a terrific pick”), wide receiver Stephen Hill (“We were going to consider him with the 16th pick”) and linebacker Demario Davis (“He’s going to be a major contributor”).
“You put Tim Tebow in the mix at four,” he said, alluding to the fourth-round pick they used in the Tebow trade, “already your draft looks pretty impressive. If people want to automatically say a certain team had a better draft than you, I’m not so sure.”
There’s no doubt the Jets improved their speed and athleticism with the first three choices. Coordinator Mike Pettine used the term “dinosaur-ish” to describe to speed in the defensive interior, but it could’ve applied to other areas as well.
Hill, who ran a 4.31 40 at the scouting combine, has been the best player on the field in the rookie minicamp, which concludes Sunday. At 6-foot-4 with serious hops, he looks like a younger, faster version of Plaxico Burress.
Of course, Hill is being covered by undrafted cornerbacks. Let’s see how he fares against Darrelle Revis. Still, it’s a positive start. At least he’s not dropping everything. Some highly regarded receivers show up to camp and can’t catch a cold.
The Jets’ top scout, Joey Clinkscales, said Hill has Calvin Johnson-like athleticism. Hill, not lacking for confidence, didn’t mind that at all, noting that he tries to emulate Johnson and Jerry Rice.
“Those aren’t guys I’m going to be,” he said. “I’m going to be my own self. I’m trying to take their game and put it into mine so I can be the best I can be or be better than them.”
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Oh, is that all?
Unless he implodes in training camp, Hill will start opposite Santonio Holmes. On their draft board, the Jets rated Hill just below Coples. Ryan, disputing a report that said they wanted pass-rusher Bruce Irvin at 16 (he went 15th to the Seattle Seahawks), said they graded Coples and Hill higher than Irvin.
Like Hill, Coples will have a major role, starting in a number of packages, according to Ryan. It’s hard to evaluate linemen in noncontact drills, but Coples definitely looks the part.
He’s bigger and thicker than advertised; he’ll fit as an inside pass-rusher in the nickel. Don’t expect Coples to be Jason Pierre-Paul; that’s a bad comparison. He simply doesn’t have that kind of explosiveness on the edge.
“I really feel that there might be more to give,” said Ryan, suggesting that Coples has barely scratched the surface. “He might even have upside.”
The Jets, too, are smitten with Davis, an unheralded linebacker from Arkansas State who climbed draft boards late in the process.
On Friday, Ryan, prone to hyperbole, raised some eyebrows when he said Davis has some Ray Lewis-like leadership qualities. As a player, Davis reminds Ryan of a young Bart Scott. Here’s a warning to the old Bart Scott: If Davis can make a quick adjustment, you could be spending significant time on the bench.
At 6-foot-2, 239 pounds, Davis doesn’t have the traditional size of an inside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme, but he can run and cover and blitz. And, yes, he does have some swagger. He said he models his game after Lewis and Lawrence Taylor.
“I try to play with the recklessness and havoc that Lawrence Taylor played with, and try to have the leadership and passion Ray Lewis has,” Davis said.
Oh, is that all?
Of the remaining draft picks, five players chosen in sixth and seventh rounds, safety Josh Bush has the best chance to see immediate time. He has a specific talent that could help the defense, a “sub” safety with coverage skills. He may never become a starter, Ryan acknowledged, but with the growth of spread offenses in today’s NFL, a player like Bush has value.
But, remember, it’s May and everybody looks good. Even Gholston, no longer employed by the NFL, looked like a stud.