December 17th, 2017. For Saints 4th year veteran WR Brandon Coleman, it was the bittersweet events which took place on that near-fateful day; that have led some of the biggest critics of the former undrafted Rutgers University star to continually hold against him, as one of the main reasons why they felt that the team should move on from him in lieu of the rapidly-approaching 2018 NFL season.
It was on that day at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in a Week #16 contest against the Jets, that Coleman fumbled not once but twice after hauling in passes thrown by QB Drew Brees in a close, hard-fought victory over an over-matched but scrappy New York team.
Amazingly: they were actually the only times that Coleman has ever fumbled the ball in his entire NFL career up to this point.
Prior to the events that took place on that forgettable day for Coleman, he had gone three seasons, 45 games and 77 catches without coughing up the ball once, but yet he fumbled the ball away twice in the red zone in the second half of that 31-19 win.
Former LSU safety Jamal Adams was credited with forcing the first fumble, and cornerback Buster Skrine forced the second, but Coleman told New Orleans Advocate beat writer Joel A. Erickson after the game that he wasn't sure if either had made an extraordinary play to knock the ball out of his grasp.
"I can't remember," Coleman said. "We won. I'll look at it on film, make the corrections, and I'm on to the next game."
Coleman gathered his thoughts for a second, and then told Erickson and other reporters who had gathered around his locker following the contest, that he planned to put the mistakes from that game behind him.
"Don't think about it," Coleman said. "That's not in my DNA to fumble the ball. I'm not going to hold my head down. That's not part of my game."
Coleman's near-costly mistakes however, were merely a "blip on the radar screen" for the Saints in what was an otherwise impressive 2017 campaign.
New Orleans went on to finish with an (11-5) record and won the NFC South division title before losing in the Divisional Round of the NFC Playoffs against the Minnesota Vikings, essentially missing out on a shot to make the Super Bowl only because of a missed tackle by a rookie defender (Marcus Williams) in the game's final seconds.
But yet months after Coleman's well-publicized fumbles against the Jets, the critics — and a surprisingly-large number of them who are actually Saints fans themselves — were adamant that the team should move on from the 6-foot-6 Coleman this off-season.
However, the Saints organization in spite of those criticisms, re-signed the Accokeek, Maryland native (just outside of Washington, D.C.) to a 1-year deal last month.
With the re-signing of Coleman, the Saints receiver group now currently has Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn Jr., Cam Meredith, Brandon Coleman, Tre'Quan Smith, Austin Carr, Tommylee Lewis, Travin Dural, Josh Huff, and Paul Turner.
And that's not even counting some of the undrafted rookies from this year's recent 2018 Draft Class that the Saints will be taking a look at in next weekend's 2018 Saints Rookie Mini-Camp (May 11th -13th), such as former Temple University WR Keith Kirkwood.
Translation: there is expected to be a ton of competition in the upcoming months ahead for the #4 and #5 WR spots on the Saints Final-53 man roster; and Brandon Coleman will be fighting — perhaps literally — for his NFL life later on this Summer when the team convenes in Metairie in late July / early August, to begin Training Camp.
Coleman finished 2017 with 23 catches, 364 yards and 3 touchdowns. Those aren't exactly numbers that "pop off the charts", but Coleman still played a lot because of his run blocking ability.
But does that ability to run-block JUSTIFY his notable lack of production, which in 3 previous NFL seasons for Coleman adds up to 79 receptions for 1,099 yards and 8 TD's (?) Those would be great numbers for 1 NFL season, but not 4 of them.
In his first "official" NFL season in 2015, he had 30 catches for 454 yards, but eclipsed 50 yards in just three games. Then in 2016, he had 26 catches for 281 yards, but the best thing he did was establish himself as a reliable run blocker.
And though he didn't blow any one away with his 2017 performance numbers-wise, it's those 2 near-costly fumbles (fair or unfair) against the Jets last season that his most harshest of critics continually point to, as a reason to move on from him.
Even worse perhaps for Coleman: the Saints drafted University of Central Florida WR Tre'Quan Smith last week, who also has the capability to be an outstanding run-blocker in his own right as he did in college, but who also was drafted by the Saints for his very notable big-play making ability down field.
That certainly doesn't bode well for Coleman given the lack of production he's had since the Saints originally signed him as an UDFA back in the 2014 off-season, before he spent most of that first year on the Practice Squad.
Nevertheless, it's important to note that Coleman has faced this very same dilemma for the past 3 off-seasons, and still has managed to make the Saints Final 53-roster each and every time.
But this off-season, the stars seem to be aligning much differently for the resilient 25-year old.
One thing that could work in Coleman's favor to stick around, despite the odds that are beginning to stack up against him: the situation with newly-signed free agent WR Cam Meredith.
Meredith is still said to be recovering from a torn ACL and MCL that he suffered while playing for the Bears that caused him to miss the entire 2017 season, which some believe is an indication why Chicago chose to "lowball" or tender Meredith at the original-round RFA rate of just $1.907 million, which gave Bears management right of first refusal but no draft compensation if he left.
Reports out of Chicago have suggested that Meredith's knee isn't fully healed and they believe it could turn out to be a lingering concern going forward, which is the impetus behind their decision to let Meredith "walk away".
The Saints meanwhile, remain very optimistic that Meredith will be able to return to the form he displayed in 2016 when he had 66 catches for 888 yards.
During an interview with Sirius XM NFL Radio a few weeks ago, Meredith said that "everything is on pace" with his recovery from tears in his anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament. He said he hasn't suffered any setbacks and plans to be ready for Week #1 at the Superdome against the visiting Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"That's my goal," Meredith told Sirius. "I'm working hard at it and I don't see any reason why not right now."
If Meredith is indeed fully recovered, that would seem to add one more stumbling block in Coleman's path; though again it's important to note that Coleman has been in this situation before, just as recent as last summer when he was being "pushed" by UDFA wide receivers Corey Fuller and Travin Dural.
When the smoke settled and the dust was clear, Coleman was still on the Final 53-man roster, Fuller got cut, and Dural ended up on the Practice Squad himself.
Which means that if nothing else: Brandon Coleman is a fighter.