The promotion came as a total surprise to Drew Coleman.
As Jets training camp came to a conclusion, Coleman, a cornerback, remembers talking to Jets head coach Rex Ryan and accepting his role of primarily being a special teams player, but being ready to play in the secondary when needed. He even took a pay cut to just remain a member of Gang Green.
Now, four weeks into the season, Coleman has earned the status of being a starting cornerback on a team littered with Pro Bowl and first-round corners. Coleman will start Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills, filling in for the injured Darrelle Revis and surpassing first-round pick Kyle Wilson as the corner opposite Antonio Cromartie.
“I just went in to practice every day trying to get better,” Coleman said. “Just watching Cromartie, watching Revis, talking to Kyle. Just trying to stay focused in the game just in case my number was called so I can go in and be productive.”
Coleman played a signature role in the Jets’ 31-23 win at Miami on Sept. 26, sealing the game with a last-minute interception in the endzone. With Wilson struggling in his first year, Coleman now gets to continue to show what he’s been learning from observing the talented crew of Jets’ cornerbacks.
The fifth-year player said that he’s always talking to Revis and Cromartie, trying to discover what they were thinking on a play and try and compete like they do. He added that watching the Wilson, Revis and Cromartie work together has also helped him learn how they play with each other. Coleman also added that he benefited from learning to play with Cromartie and Wilson when Revis was not in camp, which has prepared for him to play in the secondary the past two weeks without Revis.
Compared to his usual backup role, Coleman said there’s a different edge going into this game in which he knows he will play more snaps than usual.
“Now I’m on the field there’s going to be a lot more plays and so you have to brace myself and just continue to compete with them guys knowing they’re going to make some plays,” Coleman said. “We know they’re going to make some plays so keeping my head up and just going out there and continuing to fight with them guys knowing it’s going to be a long tough game. It always is with Buffalo.”
Ryan said that Coleman has earned the start after beginning at the bottom of the totem pole and working his way up.
“I think this season he has elevated his game,” Ryan said. “He studies, he knows the defense, he knows what we expect, his coverage is tight. He’s better at recognizing routes in my opinion and he’s playing them. He just seems to be a more aware football player in my opinion. He’s always had great quickness change of direction type of athlete, always had that, but it’s just that awareness. I think he’s really dialed in.”