FLORHAM PARK–The signing of Marquice (pronounced Mar-KWEECE) Cole by the Jets in February 2009 didn’t garner too much attention. The former Northwestern Wildcat, a Chicago native, was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by the Oakland Raiders in 2007 and then spent brief periods with both the Tennessee Titans’ and the New Orleans Saints’ practice squads.
In 2009, Cole played in 11 games for the Jets, mostly on special teams. Generally quiet and unassuming, he quickly made his mark with his speed and raw talent.
Special teams coach Mike Westhoff has worked closely with Cole over the past year and talked about what has made him such an important part of the unit. “He’s one our, if not the fastest, players. He’s exceptionally fast. When he came he was very green, but he kept working and working to improve his skills.”
According to Westhoff, all facets of Cole’s game have improved dramatically, his blocking, his tackling and his cover skills. He is a central component to three of the four special teams – punt coverage, punt return and kick-off return.
“He’s our flier (gunner) on special teams,” Westhoff said. “We count on him to get downfield and be disruptive. He’s so fast, he can force a fair catch.”
Cole was inactive for the game against the Miami Dolphins last year when RB Ted Ginn ran two kickoff returns back for touchdowns. Westhoff thinks that might not have happened if Cole had been on the field. “We never established an edge (in that game),” he said. “Marquice is able to establish the edge. He can push it down and push it deep. You can’t come at us at an angle (with him in there).”
So, what would happen this year, if the team wanted to deactivate Cole, would Westhoff protest? “Absolutely, no question,” he said.
“He’s an integral part of what we’re doing,” Westhoff said. “And, I envision him getting better and better because I see the improvements that he’s made with the experience he’s gaining. His technique gets better.”
On defense, Cole also has significant roles that he continues to work at as well and he is feeling far more comfortable this year. “I have more confidence in the defense and more understanding of the defense,” Cole said. “I can play to my level more.”
Dennis Thurman has been just as satisfied with Cole’s progress as Westhoff. “Physically he can do everything we want,” the defensive backs coach said. “Quice is one of the best athletes on the team. He just has to be more consistent. He’s very talented, but it’s about what you do with that talent.”
Although quiet and focused, Cole does have his fun. He’s a huge MMA fan and he and Mark Sanchez have developed a quirky friendship where they make bets on silly day-to-day things. “We’ll see two slugs and bet on which one goes faster,” Cole said laughing. “Right now Mark owes me $300.”
Hey Sanchez, this guy is key in establishing your field position. Pay up.