Quinton Coples at three-technique?

Pete Carroll says he wants to improve the team’s pass rush, but the first round isn’t filled with a lot of top-end defensive line options. North Carolina’s Quinton Coples entered the season with a lot of hype but didn’t live up to expectations. He started slowly with just two sacks against James Madison in his first four games and he was a non-factor in the team’s first defeat to Georgia Tech. Coples was subbed in and out regularly, spelling with Donte Paige-Moss and interestingly was kept out of crucial early down’s. Thing’s picked up late in the year and he finished with five sacks in his last seven games. However, it may be too late to save his dwindling draft stock.

Tony Pauline at Draft Insider.net reported, “The news has not been positive for defensive lineman Quinton Coples. Considered by just about all, including yours truly, as the top rated senior entering the 2011 campaign. Coples watched his play and production slide.  Its obvious on film Coples did not play with a sense of urgency last season nor really went after plays not in his immediate vicinity. While Coples turned it on late in the year scouts were given the word from those inside the North Carolina program that Coples was “playing not to get injured” for much of the year and was preparing for the draft rather than playing for the season.”

You don’t keep spelling future NFL lineman unless there’s something seriously wrong. Coples was not hurt, he was not tired – that was a coaches decision. Pauline’s report makes absolute sense to anyone who watched North Carolina earlier in the season. Coples looks every bit a pro-prospect physically and when he wants to, he shows off a certain degree of talent. However, how early are you prepared to take the risk that the light stays on once he gets paid? Let’s not forget, this is a player who seemingly risked his eligibility in 2011 after attending a draft part for former Tar Heels Robert Quinn and Marvin Austin (who themselves had already missed the 2010 season). The NCAA investigated after pictures (click here) emerged of Coples at the party, apparently also attended by an alleged runner. He was eventually cleared and it was judged no violation took place. Considering North Carolina’s recent issues, it may have been wise to stay at home.

So here we are, preparing for the 2012 NFL Draft. Having failed to dominate at the defensive end position, some pundits are wondering whether he could have a future inside at tackle. Due to Marvin Austin’s suspension in 2010, North Carolina moved Coples to defensive tackle out of sheer necessity. Rob Rang at CBS Sportsline and NFL Draft Scout recently mocked Coples to Seattle with the idea he could play the three-technique position. So is it an option? In my opinion, no – especially not in Seattle.

Take a look at the tape below (courtesy of Aaron Aloysius) which highlights Coples playing at tackle:

The Seahawks have built a system which is quite niche. We all know by now they use three big lineman (Alan Branch, Brandon Mebane and Red Bryant) with a LEO pass rusher in space attacking the edge. The WILL linebacker is expected to create pressure on the opposite side to Chris Clemons on obvious passing situations and third downs. So far it’s had mixed results, helping to solidify the run for the first half of the 2010 and 2011 season’s, emphasising Clemons’ talents as an edge rusher but generally not creating enough pressure. Seattle ranked 19th for sacks with 33 – eleven of which were from Clemons. Carroll says he wants more speed among his front seven and it’s easy to see why.

However, how does Coples fit into this scheme? You can see in the video above how completely ineffective he is in run defense. He’ll be a consistent liability playing in the middle in the NFL and it makes almost no sense to have an undersized three technique playing alongside Brandon Mebane if you’re going to play Red Bryant at end. If Coples lined up next to Clemons in the three-technique, where would you run the ball? Against Mebane and Bryant, or Coples and 254lbs Chris Clemons? It would negate all of the benefits Seattle has looked for with this system defending the run.

Of course, you could use Coples as a spot-duty pass rusher inside on long distance downs and passing situations – but are you really going to spend the #11 or #12 pick for that? Of course not. I don’t even think Coples is that effective as a pass rusher at three-technique to warrant consideration for a permanent move inside. After all, North Carolina quickly moved him back to the edge for the start of this season. You could ask Coples to add weight (he’s currently at around 280-285lbs) but will you negate what speed he has if you’re asking him to add 10lbs?

His frame and build look ideal to play the orthodox five-technique position in the 3-4, or potentially power end in the 4-3. If the questions weren’t there already about his heart and desire after a sloppy senior season, are you really going to take a gamble on a not-obvious scheme fit who may need to adapt physically to play inside? Is Quinton Coples really what the Seahawks defense has been missing?

There’s no doubt they need to find a three-technique who has the size to play any down but can offer greater interior pressure. Michael Brockers (DT, LSU) still looks like the best first round option if he chooses to declare, but alternatives are limited apart from that. Devon Still (DT, Penn State) had a strong senior campaign, but may be a better fit at five-technique. I don’t think Coples is the answer though and it would be a surprise if the Seahawks drafted him.


  1. Colin

    Coples? I thought this was a Kentwaan Balmer film….
    No, not impressed. Doesn’t seem to care on all downs. Good physical specimen, but that’s not enough to consistently beat NFL offensive lineman.

    Right now I firmly believe Seattle trades up and gets Griffin or trades down. I don’t know what else would make sense at 11/12 that fits with our needs/ value available.

  2. Ray Smith

    Amen Colin. Coples is clueless and has no desire. I watched him early and was not impressed with his play. I don’t want anything to do with this guy and I hope the FO sees the same thing. They need to draft players that love the game, not ones that are looking for what the game can do for them. Just look at Jason Babin, 1st round bust that didn’t come on until it was payday. Another Albert Haynesworth.

    Quinton is smart though, he made it through the season with no injuries and somebody will draft him in the first round based on possibilities, and that somebody will be severely disappointed.

  3. Jarhead

    I have also disliked anything related to Coples to Seattle all season. Seattle seems to be building a franchise predicated on heart, tenacity and enthusiasm IN ADDITION to talent. Rob while your insight is great, I do differ on your idea that an interior lineman of any kind in this draft should warrant our first round selection. I don’t think adding another scheme fit in the first round is going to help us at all. I certainly don’t believe that Robert Griffin is worth moving up to nab, and I am no longer buying in to his hype (I’m telling you, watch this year’s Alamo Bowl- he was generally a non-factor and it was Washington’s non-existent defense that was the difference in that game, also Keith Price out-Griffin’ed Robert Griffin). I believe Seattle needs to take this opportunity to add a splash player, a playmaker. Not another cog in the machine- there are an additional 6 rounds and FA for that. Carroll did say that he wants to add speed in the front 7, I believe that it’s the back part of that front 7 that should be addressed. There is much greater talent at LB than DL at our draft spot

  4. Rob

    I think that’s a fair point Jarhead – there is some talent at linebacker, but I wish Jarvis Jones had considered declaring. Zach Brown intrigues me. I like Luke Kuelchy but not convinced that’s what Seattle are looking for at #11 or #12. I wish there was more overall defensive talent in this class – the lack of great options on D is the one thing that makes me wonder if they will consider moving up if they do like Griffin.

  5. Jarhead

    And by largely ineffective I mean he didn’t seem to ‘dominate’ per se as many believed he would. He threw some nice balls, but the BU running game stole that show. And Griffin looked very rattled in the 2nd quarter when UW brought more pressure and was in his face. His stats were good, but watching that game, he looked decent for a team that put up 60-some odd points

  6. Jarhead

    Okay, I totally agree with you on that, Rob. Here is my 2 cents: Kuechly is more than just the ILB, what I believe he represents is the Leader of the defense for years to come. Perhaps talent wise, he is not technically worth the number 11 pick. But if he can add a toughness and personality in the mold of Lewis, Willis, Urlacher, or even Zach Thomas back in the day, that could add some justification to the pick, yes? Now tell me something else: do you really believe Griffin warrants at this point in time what we would be required to give up for his services? Especially if he is unable to start immediately? You know QB’s probably better than anyone on this site, so I figure if anyone can shed some light on that, it’s gotta be you

  7. Rob

    The big issue with Kuelchy is size – he doesn’t have it. He’s playing at 235lbs, while Urlacher and Lewis are both 250lbs+. I suspect we could end up with another Lofa Tatupu on our hands – a guy who tried to add weight, loses a step, picks up injuries. He’s not a fast player, he won’t offer any real pass rushing quality (zero sacks in 2011, 2.5 sacks in his three year college career). His great quality is sifting through traffic and being a solid tackler. The kind of guy you want on the team, but in terms of a defining top-12 pick and wanting to keep building this team – I would find that completely underwhelming. There would be real fears that his career would end up being as short as Lofa’s proved to be in the end.

    On RG3, it really depends what the price is. He’s physically very good, I love the way he improvises on plays. The Washington game was not a good showing even if he started hot. But at the same time, Baylor only beat Oklahoma because of Griffin. They only beat Texas because of Robert Griffin. So while that Huskies tape is taken into consideration, there’s also the context that it was a relatively meaningless Bowl game after he’d won the Heisman. He has a tremendous ceiling, as high as perhaps any QB I’ve watched from a physical standpoint. He’ll also need to make significant improvements to his footwork and we need to appreciate the offense he’s worked in at Baylor. He can’t afford to bail on the pass like he was showing against Washington, but in fairness there wasn’t much evidence of that in the Big 12 and I suspect he was getting frustrated in a game he expected to dominate. If you check the archives and enter ‘Robert Griffin III’ into the search box you’ll find the articles I’ve written about him that go into a lot of detail.

  8. Jarhead

    Good points about Kuechly- being undersized is definitely a detriment, especially when not overly quick. Not something that is totally unable to be overcome, but realistically is something that must be largely considered. I do suppose I wish we HAD a defensive team leader, almost as much as we had a QB, someone that could give our team a face and identity. I do remember reading a lot of what you had to say about Griffin early on, and being quite high on him myself at one point. But I imagine I was much more excited about Barkley all along, and my ideas of a QBOTF severely waned when he announced his return to USC. Griffin is supremely gifted, and played big in big games. It’s just something perhaps on the eyeball test that I just don’t like. Who knows, I could just whistling past the graveyard on this one. But good analysis- appreciate the chalk talk. I suppose in every draft season there are players that gain support and lose support from every team, pundit and fan alike. The overall point of all this is: I don’t really believe there is any ONE player who just jumps out as the ideal prospect for Seattle who will be available and at appropriate value at our draft position. So anything can happen, and it’s still all very up in the air at this point

  9. Ryan

    Rob, love this site.
    What are your thoughts on Whitney Mercilus or Nick Perry as replacements for Brock?

  10. Rob

    Jarhead – The thing I keep considering with Griffin is just how much he appears to fit exactly what it is the Seahawks want at quarterback. I look at the players they’ve signed, the way Carroll has described the position as he sees it and the players they’ve valued highly according to our sources – it’s almost like Griffin is the ideal fit for their vision. They want the mobility to run naked bootlegs, play action, to use long developing routes and be able to throw comeback’s and deep balls. They want someone who can extend plays, limit mistakes and control the ball. Although I tend to agree with you on Barkley and also some of the misgivings about RG3, I do think there’s a chance this front office falls in love with him (if they haven’t already). They liked Colin Kaepernick a lot, and yet Griffin is virtually a more polished version. And then you have the fact Griffin is a big character guy and a worthy face of the franchise. I wouldn’t rule it out, but there’s a long way to go yet.

    Ryan – I’m not convinced Perry has the edge speed or the length to play the LEO. I know that sounds odd given he’s a Pete Carroll recruit, but I’m not convinced he can play the role. Physically it’s hard to work him out for the NFL. I certainly wouldn’t take him at #11 or #12. Mercilus is a really confusing player – no obvious one move he’s mastered, not elite edge speed yet he led the NCAA in sacks. You’d watch games where he was a non-factor, get a fortunate sack and that was that. Again, I’m not sure he’s an obvious fit for Seattle even at LEO but players with 14.5 sacks in a season will always get some attention. Combine is key for both players.

  11. Tom

    I’ve yet to see anyone that is slated in that 11/12 slot that makes any sense for the Hawks from a QB, Pass Rush or CB position.

    It’s RG3 or bust and am glad we’ve stopped calling RG3 a “developmental project that will sell tickets in Miami” and start focusing on the innate talent, especially that flick of the wrist lasers coming from his right hand, because RG3 is the exact guy we need to take us to that elite level playing for a Lombardi.

    Year 3 = now or never, Pete and John. You wait any longer to find an elite QB and you’ll be hanging out with Matt Millen and Jon Gruden.

  12. Rob

    He will sell tickets in Miami and in many ways he IS a project. There’s no getting away from that. We’re not talking about a sure-fire success here. That’s not me saying I wouldn’t draft him, that’s just the way it is.

  13. DJ

    What do you think about Levonte David? I was reading/watching the thread over at Fieldgulls (http://www.fieldgulls.com/2012/1/8/2690558/2012-nfl-draft-potential-olb-targets-for-the-seahawks) yesterday on OLBs and he truly jumped off the screen.

    Things I noticed:

    1) patience while diagnosing the play — often he won’t really move until he knows what’s happening that then flies to the ball.
    2) incredible speed.
    3) ability to penetrate the line and get into the backfield.
    4) consistent tackling.

    I’m just imagining him out there with Thomas as the football equivalent of the “stars wars” missile defense system. Viable option for us?

  14. Jim Q.

    Coples, to me has never been close to the answer of the Seahawks desire to improve their pass rush, and frankly I don’t understand his draft ranking being as high as it is currently, but I suspect he’ll fall out of consideration in the first round or two as the combine & draft approach.

    A point of confusion to me is the lack of hype for Mercilus, who to me is clearly undervalued where he is currently ranked. Mercilus’s statistics are impressive, especially if you read beyond just the sack totals. I’ve watched several game tapes of his work and overall I was impressed.

    2011 Season http://realsportshype.blogspot.com/2011/04/2012-defensive-end-prospects.html
    Mercilus: (cbssports.com #34 overall) 57 Tackles, 22.5 TFL, 16.0 Sacks, 1 PBU, 6 QBH, 9 Fumbles Forced, Fumble Recovered.
    I don’t think the 22.5 tackles for loss, the 16 sacks and especially the 9 fumbles forced are anything but an indication of a pretty decent player.

    Coples comparison: (cbssports.com #11 overall) 2011 season: 55 Tackles, 15.0 TFL, 7.5 Sacks, 7 QBH, 2 PBU, 3 Fumbles Forced, Fumble Recovered.

    IMO, reading between the lines of the recent PC presser, the Seahawks may just go for a “playmaker WR or RB” in the early rounds (if no QB pick/trade is available, I’d assume) and address the speed pass rush needs through adding a DE and rush LB in mid-to-late rounds.

    To that end, I think the Seahawks should take an extra long look at Vinny Curry in round #3, with their #76 pick (where he’s currently ranked)
    Vinny Curry, DE (cbssports.com #76 overall) 77 Tackles, 22.0 TFL, 11.0 Sacks, 8 QBH, 1 PBU, 7 Fumbles Forced, Fumble Recovered, 3 Blocked Kicks, & a Safety. From the tape I’ve watched of Curry, he looks like a real kick-ass type of player that should fit into PC’s program well.

  15. Marc Edge

    As Clemons plays weak-side end, doesn’t the Will backer play on the same side?

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