Lions Key Free Agent Signing Named Best Bounce Back Candidate

Justin Coleman

Getty Justin Coleman makes a play against the Packers.

The Detroit Lions have players across their roster that could be poised to deliver a much better season in 2020 than they did in 2019, but who is the most likely to have a strong rebound year?

Recently, Pro Football Focus along with ESPN attempted to deliver an answer. For the Lions, the explanation was a good one in cornerback Justin Coleman. Coleman had an up and down season last year, but hopes are high for him to turn things around significantly this coming year.

As ESPN’s Michael Rothstein wrote in the piece, Coleman could turn things around based on what his defense does around him, which figures to be much better than last season.

Here’s what he wrote:

“Coleman was signed as the highest-paid slot corner in the NFL before the 2019 season and there were parts of the year he played like it. But an overall failure on defense led to rough numbers for most of the Lions’ secondary, Coleman included. He should also not have to play on the outside much at all this season, which would help. But the key to his bounce-back season will be how the Lions rush the passer. If they can get pressure — a major issue in 2019 — Coleman could have a strong season. If not, the entire defense might be in line to struggle.”

Coleman had an up and down season last year based almost entirely on the fact that the team’s defense struggled around him. Detroit shelled out the cash for Coleman during free agency in 2019, and at times, he didn’t deliver on the field. Perhaps with better depth and an improved defense, Coleman can start to do the kind of damage the Lions hoped of him when they signed him a short time ago.

Justin Coleman Stats

Coleman made a huge impression a few weeks into his Lions career for his ability to blanket receivers and make elite plays when the ball is thrown his way. In Detroit last season, Colman started hot with 11 tackles and 1 forced fumble. That led 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.

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.

Even though the Lions paid Coleman in a big way, it’s obvious that he needs to prove his worth to the team with a solid 2020 season in light of his massive contract and his up and down season last year. The team hopes he can channel his early results from last season for a more consistent year.

Lions Defense Needs More Interceptions

One thing Coleman and others will be shooting for in terms of improvement? More picks. As the stats show, Detroit hasn’t generated close to enough interceptions on the back end. Their squad only put up 7 picks in 2019, which was tied for the lowest total in the league. By comparison, some of the better and more aggressive teams collected 20 interceptions and well above on the season. Most teams at the very least were in the teens in terms of picks.

Obviously, the Lions have other defensive problems like low sack totals and letting teams push them around in the running game. Interceptions, however, offer the team a shot at a sudden change and a potential game changing play. This offseason, the Lions subtracted lock down cornerback Darius Slay but added Desmond Trufant, Jeff Okudah and Duron Harmon. That’s a ton of playmaking potential on the back end for the team to help aid in an improvement.

Safe to say the whole group could use a boost, but if the Lions could find a way to simply intercept the ball more, they would likely improve their whole defense.

Coleman picking off more passes would certainly help him turn things around and bounce back as well.

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