2014 starters Coples, Pace key reserves Barnes, Jermaine Cunningham, Garrett McIntyre, IK Enemkpali, Trevor Reilly – Pace and Coples combined for 91 tackles, 14.5 sacks, and 11 tackles for loss last year. It took Coples a little more than half a season to adjust to his new position and recover from a broken ankle. In his last 5 games he had 4.5 sacks and most of his 8 tackles for loss. Coples still has a lot of work to do in learning to play in space as an open field tackler as well as in coverage. Pace managed 10 sacks last year though most of them were due to the defensive line eating up the double teams leaving Pace against a tight end, a running block or unblocked. If Coples can consistently get to the quarterback, Pace might even face less resistance this year. Pace can still set the edge but is too slow in coverage to be left there too often. Last year there wasn’t much depth and the team went to more 4 man lines to accentuate their strengths. The depth returns this year with Antwan Barnes returning from injury, Jermaine Cunningham, formerly of the Patriots, McIntyre and two draft picks in Enemkpali and Reilly. Barnes had 2 early season sacks and was creating havoc in the backfield before an ACL injury sidelined him for the rest of the year. If Barnes can return to full strength that will make the pass rush even more dangerous whether he is rushing from defensive end or linebacker. Cunningham, 26, is a former 2nd round pick of the Patriots in 2010 that did not pan out. He has the size and the ability to get to the quarterback but is another reclamation project in the mold of Maybin and Sapp. Enemkpali has potential as a pass rusher as he fared very well against former 1st round pick Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M when they matched up. He is really strong and has power moves but also is very stiff which doesn’t let his speed and quickness shine through. Needs to work on his anticipation skills being so new to the linebacker position but he is ultra-competitive and plays very hard. Will need a year of playing on special teams to develop before he can step in and be more of a factor. 7th round pick Trevor Reilly is a very intriguing talent who dropped to the 7th round due to the fact that he is 26 (went on a Mormon mission for 2 years) and is coming off of a knee injury. He had 100 tackles, 16 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks for Utah last year. Everyone agrees that he is extremely tough and has a high football IQ but his athleticism is the question mark. However most believe that he can be a situational pass rusher/backup OLB quickly.
Advantage: None The Jets should have addressed this position earlier in the draft to make selections that had less question marks surrounding them. Getting Barnes back is the key to keeping the pass rush going throughout the year. Without Barnes the Jets couldn’t rest Wilkerson or Richardson as much as they would have liked and they wore down towards the end of the season as a result. If Coples truly turned the corner like he played in the season’s last 5 games then he is a threat to be in the backfield on most plays and get close to 10 sacks. If he can’t play with effort and consistency then his days here are numbered.