|National Football League|
Optimism for Jets after drafting impact players
By DENNIS WASZAK Jr.
NEW YORK (AP) Rex Ryan wanted impact players out of the NFL draft, and the New York Jets coach thinks he got his wish.
So much so that Ryan already declared - although he later backed off - that big defensive lineman Quinton Coples and speedy wide receiver Stephen Hill will be starters for a team determined to get back to the playoffs.
"Yes," Ryan said without hesitation late Saturday night. "How's that one?"
Well, it remains to be seen what the veterans will think of that bold and possibly premature statement. But Ryan's excitement is understandable.
After all, he and his team are coming off a disappointing season and a winter of uncertainty, and this was indeed an important draft for him, general manager Mike Tannenbaum and the rest of the organization. There were some serious holes in the roster heading into the draft and there's still work to be done, including possibly at right tackle and outside linebacker. But there's no doubt the Jets improved their overall team speed on both sides of the ball and added some aggressive and physical players - just as Ryan likes `em.
"We'll just keep adding good football players," Tannenbaum said. "I do like what we got accomplished."
New York split their eight picks evenly between offense - Hill, running back Terrance Ganaway and guard Robert T. Griffin, both sixth-rounders from Baylor, and wide receiver Jordan White (seventh) - and defense - Coples, inside linebacker Demario Davis (third), and safeties Josh Bush (sixth) and Antonio Allen (seventh).
Oh, and Tannenbaum joked that he also really likes his fourth-round pick. That's the draft selection, of course, that the Jets traded to the Denver Broncos, along with a sixth-rounder, to acquire backup quarterback Tim Tebow.
The Jets' offense will have a different look because of Tebow, who'll play a key role in running wildcat and option-style plays behind starter Mark Sanchez. But Tannenbaum brushed aside thoughts that New York brought in some guys on offense - Hill, Ganaway, Griffin - who are used to playing in a style suited to Tebow's skill set.
"That would just be a coincidence," Tannenbaum said.
The rule of thumb is that it takes three years to accurately assess draft picks, but the Jets hope at least a few in this year's group quickly get the arrow pointed up and keep it there.
It all starts with Coples, a 6-foot-5, 285-pound defensive lineman from North Carolina who has a knack for the sack and creating commotions up front. Although many fans at the draft's site at Radio City Music Hall were chanting for the Jets to take South Carolina's Melvin Ingram at No. 16 overall, Coples might be better suited for what Ryan wants to do. And that, of course, is to be the league's No. 1 defense.
"I'm going to just come in and make an impact as soon as I can," Coples said after being drafted. "I'm going to come in as a rookie and work my way up."
The Jets are loaded with depth on the defensive line, and that will allow Ryan to mix and match players at different spots. It could be Coples and Muhammad Wilkerson, the team's top pick last year, on the ends and Sione Pouha in the middle of the 3-4 base defense. Or, Ryan could rotate Coples with incumbent starter Mike DeVito, and mix in others such as Marcus Dixon, Ropati Pitoitua and Kenrick Ellis with a four-man front.
"We do have unusual depth right now," Ryan said. "We have it set up where we can do a lot of things with that front. ... You want to have guys that are fresh to rush the quarterback in the fourth quarter. The more of these guys you get, the better it is for your team."
Coples could knock DeVito out of the starting lineup, as Ryan said, but who starts might not matter much in this defense.
"When I say they're going to start, there's so many different roles," Ryan said. "There's so many different things they're going to start on. There's sub-team, there's this team, there's all those different things. They're going to play significantly. Is it 100 percent that it's all 16 games? It really depends on what we're in."
Davis is a hard-hitting tackling machine from Arkansas State who'll back up Bart Scott and likely replace him in the next season or two. Bush and Allen will provide depth at safety, where the Jets only had LaRon Landry and Eric Smith as players with any significant NFL experience. All three newcomers, plus White, should also boost the Jets' special teams unit - and coordinator Mike Westhoff surely had a big part in identifying them as dual-purpose players.
Ryan saying that Hill will come in and start is hardly a surprise. The Jets were in need of a field-stretching wide receiver who could take pressure off Santonio Holmes, and that's exactly what Hill can do. He played in a triple-option offense at Georgia Tech, but made the most of his catches by setting an NCAA record by averaging 55.2 yards on his nine touchdown grabs.
At 6-4 and 215 pounds, the Jets envision him as a potential Calvin Johnson-type player and he should beat out Chaz Schilens and Jeremy Kerley for the No. 2 job. He's also a ferocious blocker - perfect for New York's run-first offense. Throw in Ganaway, a 5-11, 240-pound bull of a back who'll team with big-bodied Shonn Greene, and Ryan's desire to have a true "Ground-and-Pound" approach appears to be set up nicely.
"I think we've complemented our team in a lot of ways," Tannenbaum said. "With that said, whatever opportunities present themselves, we'll go ahead and there's guys who we're trying to sign now that will be great stories."
Updated April 29, 2012