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Get to know the Detroit Lions’ newest CB Justin Coleman

We asked Seahawks blog Field Gulls to give us the lowdown on Detroit’s new nickel corner.

Seattle Seahawks v Detroit Lions Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

How about them Lions this past Monday, am I right? We all knew they’d go out and sign some players, but who would have thought they’d go out and get good ones?

After the Lions decided to part way with Nevin Lawson, the team was in desperate need of a new nickel corner. To be honest, even if the Lions had kept Lawson, they’d still be in need of a new nickel corner.

Here’s where Bob Quinn surprised everyone. I’m sure many assumed they would go out and sign a nickel corner who came on the cheap and was an okay player with ties to the Patriots. Instead, he went out and got arguably the the second best nickel available and added a major player to the Lions secondary. Oh, and he also used to play for the Patriots. Bob checked multiple boxes here.

Justin Coleman was quite the signing for the Lions. He’s even showed out in Ford Field already too. You may remember the dumbest interception Matthew Stafford ever threw.

I can sit here and tell you all day about how great of a signing Justin Coleman was for the Lions, but I think you should hear it from the guys that spent the last two years watching him. Of course, I’m talking about my friend Alistair Corp from Field Gulls. I got in touch with him to learn more about Coleman. Here’s what he had to say:

POD: What are your thoughts on Coleman’s time in Seattle?

FG: “I have nothing but positive thoughts on Justin Coleman’s time with the Seahawks. He displaced Jeremy Lane, who was overpaid and a liability, as the nickel almost immediately upon arriving prior to the 2017 season. Since then, he’s simply been a solid, consistent starter. Last season was a transitional year for Seattle’s secondary, but Coleman had a legitimate case to be their best DB (along with Bradley McDougald). “

POD: What are his strengths?

FG: “Coleman’s biggest strength, and what I will always think about with him, is his closing speed. It’s tremendous and allows him to recover late in a receiver’s route if he’s in a trailing position–he’s never lost the route until the ball is in the receiver’s hands.

That then works in chorus with what is his other great strength, ball skills. Whether it’s getting a hand into the receiver’s frame to break up a pass after recovering, or creating a turnover, Coleman has a knack for getting to the football. He’s going to give Detroit strong, steady play out of the slot and a few times a year he’s going to make a game altering play, too.

Coleman tested as a phenomenal athlete prior to the 2015 draft (in the 88th percentile) and particularly in the agility tests (87th percentile short shuffle, 93rd percentile three cone). As you’d expect, that lends itself nicely to the slot where there’s such an emphasis on short area movement and change of direction. He’s incredibly fluid and can mirror whether he’s up on the line or playing off.

Seattle rarely blitzes their DBs but in a small sample size (mostly in the preseason) Coleman has looked good doing it. The two key traits I want to see in a blitzing cornerback–which Lions fans saw for years from the GOAT blitzer Antoine Winfield–is how well is it disguised, and how well do they time it. Coleman checked both those boxes.”

POD: What are his weaknesses?

FG: “The big weakness in his game, and the reason he wasn’t a must retain player for Seattle, is his tackling. Teams ran right at him constantly and in the last quarter of the season or so, he lost snaps to Delano Hill as the Seahawks experimented with big nickel packages. That’s not a deal breaker for most teams, and wasn’t really for Seattle, but this is a team and staff that craves physicality from their secondary. In that sense, Coleman was a good starter and a valuable piece, but not really part of the long-term picture.”

POD: How much of an immediate impact will Coleman have on the Lions secondary?

FG: “He will step in and solidify the nickel cornerback spot immediately, and probably won’t make the Lions or their fans think twice about his starting position after that.

I’m a big believer in building a roster with the division in mind, and in that way, it’s a terrific signing. Allen Robinson is just getting back to his best coming off two years removed from a torn ACL, and has long played better out of the slot. Adam Thielen is unbelievable and the majority of his yardage comes out of the slot. Detroit isn’t going to lose games as a result of those matchups. This is a slot corner who gets knocked for his physicality versus the run, and is giving up height and weight in virtually every matchup, but he consistently held his own in really tough physical (what are on paper) mismatches.”

This is pretty much everything you want to hear if you’re a Lions fan right? Detroit is getting a guy that is going to come in and start immediately and have an impact immediately. Alistair’s last point is particularly exciting. Coleman will be able to hold his own against some of the top receivers in the division. That’s the kind of thing that helps the Lions win very important games.

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