We have entered the quiet parts of the NFL offseason. Free agency and the draft are behind us, while mandatory minicamp and training camp won't start until Tuesday and late July, respectively.
However, while the football world seemingly turns slower these days it does not stop. After all, by late August, each team has to start making its roster cuts. Until then, players have to secure their spots on the team; they need to do their jobs (well) or someone else will.
Over the course of the next few weeks, we will take a look at the men fighting for those spots on the 2016 New England Patriots. Today, we'll take a look at cornerback Justin Coleman.
Name: Justin Coleman
Jersey number: 22
Size: 5'11, 190 lbs.
2015 review: After not getting selected in the 2015 NFL Draft, Tennessee cornerback Justin Coleman signed as a free agent with the Minnesota Vikings. He spent his first NFL training camp with the Vikings but was released on August 30th. On September 4th, he signed with the Patriots but the team released him the following day.
After a short stint on the Seattle Seahawks' practice squad, Coleman returned to Foxboro – now as a member of the 53-man roster – on September 9th. Once on the Patriots' roster, Coleman became the team's primary slot cornerback and one of the positive surprises of New England's 2015 team.
Overall, he appeared in 12 games and played 32.8% of the team's defensive snaps (410 of 1,249). Those numbers likely would have been higher if not for a broken hand that forced Coleman to miss three games. Not only his playing time was solid, his statistics were as well: of the 47 passes thrown his way, Coleman allowed only 24 to be completed (51.1%) for 301 yards, two touchdowns and an 85.5 passer rating.
2016 preview: Coleman, who signed his exclusive rights tender sheet in April, has had a surprisingly solid rookie year in New England. However, this does not make him a roster lock entering 2016, even though his chances to make the team do look good.
Of the 10 cornerbacks currently under contract with the Patriots, no more than five will ultimately survive the two cut-down days. And while Coleman is the favorite to join the trio of Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan and Cyrus Jones on the team, the 23-year old still needs a good first summer in Foxboro to not get surpassed by his peers – especially considering that he hasn't been used on special teams last season.
If he is able to do that, Coleman will be on the Patriots' 53-man squad as a depth option behind the two projected starters Butler and Ryan and as a key substitute when the team uses its nickel and dime packages. However, he is not projected to play a bigger role than last year given the addition of Jones and the return of the team's top-five defensive backs.
Still, as the Patriots have witnessed in 2015, depth is incredibly important. Coleman provides just that as he has the potential to be a quality third option at cornerback.
Seeing Justin Coleman make the Patriots' roster last season was a minor surprise. One year later, this would not be the case as Coleman is coming off a solid rookie campaign. If he is able to improve and make the famed second year jump, New England could have found yet another undrafted cornerback gem.