The ninth-year safety is smart and has experience playing multiple roles in several defensive schemes. He’s a ballhawk that can also hit hard. He’s a veteran leader who knows how to relay his experiences to younger players.
So, even though Coleman had a down year with the Carolina Panthers in 2017 as he dealt with injuries, he expects to return to his high level of play for the New Orleans Saints in 2018.
“Just because the stock price went down maybe one day on Apple, are you still not going to put your money in it?” he said Wednesday (June 13). “So, I’m going to bet on myself every day I’m out there, and that’s the bottom line.
“When it’s my time to go, I’m going to be ready to step up to the plate and hit a home run.”
The Saints are obviously optimistic that Coleman can make a significant impact for their defense. When the Panthers cut Coleman to create salary cap space in late February, the Saints quickly tried to add him.
Coleman even visited the NFL Scouting Combine to discuss his future with potential suitors, and while in Indianapolis, he had dinner with some Saints representatives, including coach Sean Payton. Payton raved about the signing after the Saints inked Coleman to a three-year, $16.35 million deal, and the coach has been impressed with the safety so far this offseason.
“His presence you feel out here,” Payton said. “He would definitely be one that you knew (was a leader) from afar, but then when he’s in the building now you get a chance to meet him and be around him. And he’s a great addition for us.”
Coleman was one of the Panthers’ most impactful defenders before a knee injury limited him to 12 games last season. In 2015, Coleman had a career-high seven interceptions along with 90 tackles, five for loss and a sack. He followed that in 2016 with 95 tackles, four interceptions and a sack.
In 2017, Coleman’s tackle production remained the same as he had 76 in 12 games, but he didn’t make as many plays on the ball as he had zero interceptions and three passes defensed, compared to the 16 total the previous two seasons.
“I’m not going to make excuses,” he said. “Injuries are part of the game. If I’m out there on the field, I’m giving 110 percent, (and) I’m doing whatever I can to help the team win.”
And the Saints think Coleman can do a lot to help them win this season, and having a front-row seat for three of Coleman’s games last season — and seven total the past three years — helped coaches see what he could do.
Defensive coordinator Dennis Allen raved about a couple aspects of Coleman’s game. The first was his intelligence, and Allen said having smart players like Coleman will help the defense have more options with regards to disguising the scheme.
“We’re going to do as much and be as complicated as we can that our intelligence level will allow us to be as well as our athletic ability will allow us to be,” Allen said.
Last season, the Saints frequently played with three safeties on the field — Marcus Williams, Vonn Bell and Kenny Vaccaro. Sometimes they even had packages with four safeties. Coleman is looking forward to partaking in the unique lineup groups, no matter where he plays.
“Don’t just put me in one spot and tell me to just have fun there,” he said. “No, I like to move around, I like to have fun, I like to be able to see the ball, go get the ball and sometimes I like to play deep.”
The other thing that Allen has noticed about Coleman is how much he loves football.
“He’s all business,” Allen said.
Coleman also understands his role as a leader in the Saints locker room, particularly at his position. Williams is entering his second year, Bell is entering his third and Coleman can pass along a lot of information about how to be successful in the NFL.
“I’ve always felt like I’ve been surrounded by some great guys throughout my tenure in the NFL, and now it’s my time to be that guy that guys can look to for advice, whether it be on the field or off the field advice,” he said.
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