Justin Coleman was paid handsomely by the Detroit Lions this offseason to fit within the team’s up and coming defensive backfield, and so far, that fit has been seamless early in the 2019 season.
Through just four games on the field, Coleman has already made a huge impression for his ability to blanket receivers and make elite plays when the ball is thrown his way. In Detroit, Colman has started hot with 11 tackles and 1 forced fumble. That’s leading those who are watching closely, including ESPN’s Field Yates, to proclaim him one of the best signings of the free agency period early on.
After watching Coleman match up with Kansas City Chiefs, Yates seemed very excited about what Coleman has been providing the Lions early in his tenure with the team.
It’s been a long time since the Lions could count on anything consistent from their defensive backfield, but with Coleman in the mix, they are finally seeing some quality depth shine through. Against the Chiefs, the team was without Darius Slay and also lost safety Quandre Diggs. Detroit teams of the past would have wilted under such pressure, but thanks to Coleman, the Lions were able to hold it together and continue the game plan during the afternoon.
Instead of watching things fall apart during the game, Coleman stepped up and provided the Lions just the spark they needed. He stuck with the Kansas City wideouts and even made one of the most heads-up plays of the day, punching the ball out from Chiefs wideout Sammy Watkins in the end zone. He later caused a key turnover with the same move. Coleman also nearly came down with an insane one handed interception in the end zone which nearly helped the Lions steal a late victory.
After the Lions shelled out the 4 year, $36 million deal to Coleman in free agency last March nearly immediately, the prevailing thought was concern about whether a player who only had a mere 119 tackles, 2 interceptions and 3 fumble recoveries in his career would be worth the major money. The key, though, was always the fact that Coleman was coming into a defense in which he has a strong background with Matt Patricia. His awareness around the ball is also key.
In New England, Coleman fit Patricia’s plan perfectly, and it was the Patriots who ended up using Coleman the best. When he went to the Seattle Seahawks, Coleman enjoyed a bit more production and more money, but it was easy to see he loved his role in a comfortable defensive scheme when he jumped at the chance to re-unite with Patricia in Detroit.
Now, no matter how long Slay may be missing or what changes may occur in the secondary due to injury, the Lions can feel comfortable knowing they have Coleman patrolling the backfield. He proved against the Chiefs that he is up to the challenge.
Even though the Lions paid Coleman in a big way, it’s obvious that he is proving his worth to the team, and might even be playing well enough to be considered a steal in spite of his massive contract.