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Quinton Coples ready to make immediate impact for Jets

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- As Quinton Coples begins his career as a New York Jet, he owns a new playbook, occupies one of the temporary lockers that clutter a vast locker room at the team facility and wears a new number (98).

He also bears the weight that comes from being selected 16th overall in the NFL draft. In short, he is a pass rusher who is expected to provide an instant impact for a team that recorded a middling 35 sacks in 2011.

"He has the God-given ability to be great, because he has the size, the speed and the athleticism," coach Rex Ryan said during the Jets' rookie mini-camp over the weekend, "but that doesn't guarantee anything."

If Coples has any doubt about any of that, he could check with Aaron Maybin, his new teammate. Maybin's name is highlighted, in neon green, above one of the permanent lockers along the wall in the locker room. But, it would seem, he had to become a Jet to find a home where he could thrive.

Drafted 11th overall in 2009 by Buffalo, Maybin didn't live up to the billing. An edge pass rusher, he played 27 games for the Bills, never recorded a sack and was released in August. Signed by the Jets, Maybin saw playing time as a situational pass rusher, wound up with a team-high six sacks in 2011 and could provide Coples with a shoulder to lean on, should he need one.

Maybin said last season he finally didn't feel pressure: "None at all. Rex told me he didn't want me to put pressure on myself." He "felt rejuvenated" and expects an expanded role in 2012.

Could such an environment help Coples succeed early? Could it lead him to fulfill his potential?

"Regardless of who you are or where you're picked, if you're talented enough you're going to put a certain amount of pressure on yourself," Maybin said. "Rookies don't realize that everything's not going to happen right away. But you can't let that determine how hard you work."

Coples, one of 56 rookies and first-year players on the practice field over the weekend, appears to be off to a strong start in the hard-work department. His hustle earned Ryan's praise -- "That's it, Coples!" and "Way to run, Coples!" -- during pursuit drills, where the 6-foot-6 Coples was among the fastest defensive linemen on the field.

The praise isn't incidental. After a junior season when he was compared to former Tar Heel Julius Peppers, a knock on Coples during his senior season was a low, inconsistent effort level. He recorded 7.5 sacks in 2011; four of them came in two games, against Duke and James Madison.

"I don't know how many sacks he had last year," Ryan said Friday, "but he had about six today."

Unless something goes wrong, Coples will be a Day 1 starter for the Jets, likely at left defensive end. He also lined up on the right side and at tackle Friday.

During Saturday's team period, Coples stood and watched from the sideline. Ryan had seen enough the day before; he wasn't taking any chance of a Coples injury against other young, less-heralded players who were trying to make an impression.

Coples, a communications major at North Carolina, also said the right things. He talked about his desire to help the Jets win a Super Bowl, about wanting Ryan to coach him to be "great," and about the ease of learning that aforementioned new playbook.

On his initial post-draft visit, the Jets provided Coples with 10 DVDs featuring various defensive fronts against 2011 opponents. Coples watched them all, saying they helped him gain an understanding of the defense.

"I grasped the majority of the defensive playbook today," Coples said Friday. "I grasped everything, didn't have any (mistakes), so things turned out great."

Ryan was amused to learn that his first-round pick believes he has mastered the Jets defense. He added that he liked Coples' "confidence."

Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said he did a "mental backflip" when Coples was available at the Jets' pick. Now it's up to Ryan and Pettine to make Coples into the player they need him to be.

And, to be sure, it's up to Coples, too.

Follow Kim Jones on Twitter @KimJonesSports

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