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Barry Hirstius

Is Saints WR Brandon Coleman Finally Living Up to the Hype?

After the New Orleans Saints just completed their 5th day of Training Camp earlier today, their 2nd practice in a row in front of a handful of capacity-filled bleachers filled with fans watching on; one thing has become evident: 3rd year WR Brandon Coleman might be having the best Training Camp of his young NFL career.

Coleman has been "on fire" since the team's first practice on Thursday, including a handful of receptions that would have gone for long TD's in a real game situation. At this point, it's hard to imagine ANY scenario that won't have Coleman easily making the team's Final 53-man roster later next month as the team's #4 WR.

For the 6-foot-6, 235 pound Coleman, size and talent has never been issue. It's been a matter of consistency for Coleman, as in "a lack" of it.

But this year, something is noticeably different with Coleman. 

He seems to be playing with a sense of purpose, and seems to be demonstrating a considerable amount of passion on-the-field, than has ever been seen from him before.

As / The Times-Picayune columnist Jeff Duncan observed yesterday: Coleman looks bigger, stronger and faster than he ever has with the Saints. He's playing with confidence and carrying himself with "swagger".

Duncan adds that Coleman's development and progress could help the Saints compensate for the loss of playmaker Brandin Cooks on the perimeter.

And based on what we've seen from Coleman after the first 5 days and 4 practices worth of Camp, that clearly appears to be the case.

Coleman arrived in New Orleans as an undrafted free agent in 2014, after injuries cut short his career at Rutgers University, where he was often referred to as the "Baby Calvin Johnson"; as in former Detroit Lions All-Pro and now retired WR Calvin Johnson -- who terrorized NFL defenses with his 6-foot-5 frame and athleticism that made him an NFL superstar.

Photo courtesy of The New Orleans Times-Picayune

Coleman had similar "hype" surrounding him as the "next " Calvin Johnson, coming out of the 2014 NFL Draft,; but all 32 teams passed on taking him due to concerns about his torn MCL knee injury that he suffered in the Scarlet Knights’ spring practice of 2013.

Coleman's knee never had the chance to properly heal, and though he continued to play through the lingering pain and discomfort, it subsequently led to a significant drop-off in statistics (34 receptions for 538 yards and four touchdowns) during what would be his final year in college.

He was rated by many scouts coming out as a 3rd or 4th-round draft pick that year, but because of concerns that his knee wasn’t fully healed, Coleman eventually went undrafted.

Photo courtesy of USA TODAY Sports

Coleman struggled mightily as an UDFA, as he suffered from a case of the “dropsies” and had difficulties at first learning the Saints offense.

He was eventually released, before being re-signed to the Practice Squad where he spent most of the 2014 season; before getting called up to the permanent roster with only 3 games regular season games remaining.

The following year in 2015 was considered officially as Coleman's first "full" NFL season, where he caught a total of 30 passes for 454 yards and 2 TD’s in 2015 as the team's #5 WR.

Those weren't actually "bad" numbers by any stretch --- but they clearly were not the numbers that he had been expected to put up by either analysts or fans, and it probably goes without saying the Saints coaching staff as well.

Photo courtesy of USA TODAY Sports

And then of course, there was last season: where Coleman struggled yet again and suffered a significant drop-off in production, finishing the year with a grand total of 281 receiving yards on 26 receptions though he did manage to score 3 TD's.

Part of the reason for his decline last year were several instances of maddening inconsistency; including a critical dropped pass late in the 4th quarter during a Week #2 road loss in New York against the Giants that could have helped the Saints pull out a close win in a game they eventually lost on the game's final play.

That performance last year was what put his future with the team heading into this coming season in doubt, but these last 4 days of practice at Training Camp seemed to have now solidified Coleman's standing as the team's #4 WR.

One thing not to be overlooked: the impact of WR's coach Curtis 'CJ" Johnson, who has returned to the Saints coaching staff this year and has spent a lot of time personally working one-on-one with Coleman during the off-season.

It's Coach Johnson who has no doubt had some major influence in helping Coleman with both his receiving technique, and perhaps more importantly: his self-confidence.

And as we all know: a little self-confidence can go a long way, which may explain the notable difference in demeanor seen from Coleman in these past few days of Camp.

Photo courtesy of David Grunfeld, The New Orleans Times-Picayune

The questions now for Coleman going forward now are simple:

Can he become more consistent?

Can he make these same big plays that he's been making in practice, during the games that actually count?

Can he continue to catch the ball 'cleanly', without reverting back to his known habit of dropping easy and very catchable passes?

Can he finally meet the potential of someone whose physical gifts could allow him to become a very special player in the NFL?

Photo courtesy of Matthew Hinton, New Orleans Advocate

The answers to those questions and much more, lie in these next coming weeks and months ahead.

Is Brandon Coleman finally going to live up to the "hype"?

We're about to find out......

Saints News Network featured columnist and Big Easy Magazine contributing writer Barry Hirstius is a 52-year old semi-retired journalist, former New Orleans-area sports editor, and writer previously with several sites that exclusively cover the New Orleans Saints football team. Additionally, he is a recurring guest on a variety of local Sports Talk Radio programs. Barry is also a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the team while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium in the early 1970’s, originally following and now covering the team for a span of over 45 plus years. And perhaps most importantly of all: he is the Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity.....

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