- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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CORTLAND, N.Y. -- The Jets have invested a lot of resources in their defensive line -- three No. 1 picks -- and now they're expecting a big payoff. The goal, according to Quinton Coples, is to be the scourge of the NFL.
"No disrespect or discredit to any defensive front out there, but we want to be the best and make our own name," Coples said Monday.
Confident man, Coples.
"Why wouldn't I be?" he asked. "I see what we have, I see the talent we have. ... The sky is the limit."
The line has tremendous potential, but it's important to keep it in perspective. The only proven player among the projected starters is Muhammad Wilkerson, who felt he should've made the Pro Bowl last season. After two years, he's already considered one of the top 3-4 defensive ends in the league.
Coples posted a team-high 5.5 sacks as a rookie, but he's still learning. (Technically he's no longer listed as a defensive lineman, but he still lines up on the line in the nickel package.) Rookie Sheldon Richardson, selected 13th overall, has impressed in the early practices, but he played only two years at the major-college level.
Rex Ryan, a former defensive-line coach, loves the unit's potential. But he was careful not to gush too much.
"We have a long road before we say (it's the best)," he said. "How 'bout we play a couple of games? But they certainly are a talented group. They're a talented group, no question. You want your guys to have that kind of confidence, but to be the best, you have to show up every day."
Ryan added: "It'll be interesting to see this group grow together. Could it be one of the best? If they keep working, I certainly hope so."
The projected starters are Wilkerson, Richardson and NT Kenrick Ellis, a first-year starter. The elder statesman, Antonio Garay, said Ellis "hasn't even scratched the surface yet of how good he can be." Garay, who played with the Bears in 2006 and 2007, said Richardson reminds him of former Chicago DT Tommie Harris. Nice compliment. Garay, the wise vet, believes in the unit. But he's not ready to anoint it as the next Steel Curtain.
"Coaches and media tell us how good we can be, but it's not as good as we can be," he said. "Right now, we have all the potential in the world, but that doesn't mean anything without hard work."