The New Orleans Saints find their receiving corps in flux this coming season. Gone are favorites Kenny Stills and Lance Moore. Top wideout Marques Colston is another year older, while first round star Brandin Cooks missed much of his rookie season. Enigmatic Nick Toon has yet to show consistency on the field, and Joseph Morgan has climbed back on his carousel ride on the Saints roster. Throw in return specialist Jalen Saunders and journeyman Josh Morgan, and the Saints receiving corps has more question marks than explanation points for the first time in years.
The two true remaining spots at receiver are held by two men who have recently shown flashes of brilliance early in the Saints' organized team activities (or OTAs). We will discuss those two men this weekend, Brandon Coleman and Seantavius Jones. Today, we'll start with Coleman, how he came to New Orleans and what to expect from him in 2015.
Brandon Coleman enters his second season with the Saints after being "redshirted" in 2014 by head coach Sean Payton. Coleman was highly touted before the 2014 Draft, yet found himself joining the Saints as an undrafted free agent due to a torn meniscus in his right knee that derailed his promising college career at Rutgers. He measures in with an impressive 6'6", 225 lb frame and seems to have all of the tools necessary to succeed under quarterback Drew Brees.
Here was Coleman's draft profile in 2014 as compiled by NFL.com:
Receiver-safety who also played basketball as a Maryland prep. Redshirted in 2010. Played all 13 games in each of his three seasons. Started five games in 2011 and recorded 17 receptions for 552 yards (32.5-yard average) and six touchdowns. Started nine games in 2012 and had 43 catches for 718 yards (16.7) and 10 TDs. Had off-season surgery on his right knee, which kept him out of 2013 spring practice and reportedly affected his play as a junior. In the fall, started all 13 contests and produced 34 catches for 538 yards (15.8) and four TDs. Team captain.
STRENGTHSOutstanding size and body length -- presents a big target. Long arms enable him to slap away and swim off the jam. Covers ground with long strides. Tracks over his shoulder. Can post up smaller defensive backs. Has playmaking ability -- averaged nearly 22 yards per catch and scored on one out of every five catches over three seasons. Has sheer size to shield as a blocker. Team captain.
WEAKNESSESNot an elite athlete. Has some buildup -- does not accelerate off the jam. Lacks big-time, explosive speed to blow by cornerbacks. Route running needs refinement. Not a confident hands catcher -- lets throws into his body and drops balls he shouldnt. Shows some stiffness through his torso and is linear after the catch -- gears down to cut and elusiveness is limited. Marginal special-teams utility.
DRAFT PROJECTIONRounds 3-4
BOTTOM LINEBig, tall, talented, West Coast receiver whose sheer size enables him to be effective outside the numbers, on slant routes and in the red zone, though inconsistency has prevented him from reaching his potential. Has the look of a No. 2 receiver, but his production fell off as a junior (played through a knee injury). He could have used another season to polish his skills.
All of the tools are there for Coleman to be great, yet he stumbled out of the gates at this point last year. A severe case of drops and other correctable mental errors kept Coleman from seeing the field for the Saints during the regular season in 2014. His early inconsistencies were certainly as disappointing to the Saints' coaches as they were to himself last year. This year though, the opposite sentiment appears to be the consensus, and it couldn't have come at a better time for the transitioning Saints receiving corps.
Here is some of the word out on Coleman during the recent OTAs:
My Thursday OTA observations: #Saints WR Brandon Coleman becoming more of a weapon each day http://t.co/Lf9OytKabd via @nolanews— Larry Holder (@LarryHolder) June 5, 2015
Brandon Coleman, Seantavius Jones draw notice from New Orleans Saints brass http://t.co/m570iAM80g via @nolanews— Katherine Terrell (@Kat_Terrell) June 5, 2015
Another #Saints practice, another big day for second-year WRs Seantavius Jones, Brandon Coleman http://t.co/JyO30NB8mx— Mike Triplett (@MikeTriplett) June 4, 2015
The fact that Brandon Coleman is turning heads and turning around perceptions this early on is quite encouraging. Coleman has reportedly seen increased snaps with the first team and made his share of impressive plays during his opportunities. The opportunity is there for Coleman to succeed, and he appears to be taking advantage of them. Whether it's him simply letting the game slow down and come to him, or him catching up to the speed of the NFL game, some gears are shifting for Coleman, and the Saints will ultimately benefit from it.
I like Brandon Coleman and will certainly be rooting for him to make the roster and impress this season. He appears to be humble and likable, at a position where both of those qualities tend to be rare. His likable personality (and great sense of patience) was on display during his May 2014 interview with our very own fearless leader Dave Cariello here:
Dave's computer must've been made in Atlanta because it crashes and burns just when things were really getting interesting. Dave goes MIA at the 11:21 mark but returns for the furious comeback at the 20:27 mark. It's a fun watch, and worth the time to take a glimpse at the 22-year-old wideout off the field. Thanks again, Dave!
I think Coleman may ultimately make the Saints roster in 2015 and crack the Saints' top five in the receiving corps. He has the physical tools in place, and now that the mental errors have begun to fade in the distance, now may be his time to take advantage of the opportunity in front of him.