FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Versatile. It’s one of the best compliments that can be handed out to a player. If you ask a coach what they look for in a player, you’ll usually hear that word used multiple times. Looking ahead to the 2012 season, head coach Rex Ryan has a defensive line that is versatile in every sense of the word.

Having spent their last two first round picks on the line to infuse with defensive mainstays such as Sione Pouha and Mike DeVito, Ryan boasts perhaps the deepest defensive front in the league. The addition of defensive line coach Karl Dunbar, maestro of the masterful Vikings defensive line that featured Jared Allen and Kevin & Pat Williams, adds the sink to Ryan’s “everything but the kitchen sink” defensive schemes.

“We’re definitely versatile. Pretty much everyone can play anywhere on this line. The versatility we have is great. We’ve reached the point in our time together where we know each other’s strong suits and can wreak havoc,” Quinton Coples, the team’s 16th overall selection in this year’s draft, said.

Coples, of course, is a huge working cog with the interchangeable parts. Initially it’s been stated that he’ll be used in the three-technique, outside the tackle, and the wide-nine, outside the tight end purely pass rushing. On the other end of the d-line will be his former prep school teammate and first round pick Muhammad Wilkerson setting the edge and stopping the run.

Quinton Coples (above) is just one the interchangeable parts on the revamped Jets defensive line. (JetsInsider.com Photo).

With only three sacks in his rookie campaign, but a team-high 13 tackles for loss Wilkerson had no problem playing the supporting actor role. This past off-season, however, he’s worked hard on conditioning, footwork and overall speed to get that extra jump off the ball. Citing that this is a game of inches, Wilkerson hopes his off-season work equates to a higher sack total in 2012.

“I feel like I can contribute to this pass rush. I lost a few pounds [in the off season], hopefully I’ll be a little quicker and that’ll lead to more of a presence,” he said.

For Aaron Maybin, who’s looking to build upon a breakout 2011 season now having a full off-season to grasp concepts, having so many tough match-ups around him is a breath of fresh air.

“It’s really difficult when you have someone that has to be accounted for right next to you, you can’t get all the attention your way. Nothing has me more excited than [the defensive line] and how they’ve progressed because that’ just going to help us all as a defense,” Maybin said.

Thus far, players like Coples and Wilkerson have sung the praises of Dunbar and his expertise with defensive lines, citing his work with the Vikings as clear cut evidence to his work ethic.

“When you have a great coach in Dunbar it’s easy. With everything he’s been able to do with the Vikings, everyone is soaking up all his knowledge. We really feel this unit is going to be something special this year,” Wilkerson said with Coples saying that he brings “that tenacity we all saw with the Vikings” to this team.

Dunbar is a re-inventor of Buddy Ryan’s famed 46 defense, which is expected to have a bigger wrinkle in Rex’s 3-4 base defense this season.  “Base”, however, is a term that is loosely used as ProFootballFocus.com published an insightful article last month stating that the Jets were among the bottom third of teams to use their base defense the fewest times (37%).

The article goes on to state that the team spent 17% of defensive snaps with 7+ defensive backs (an allusion to the spread offense fever) and but also went 6% of the snaps without a DB, second highest only to the Detroit Lions.

Truly a testament to Ryan’s love of versatility.
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