Brady Henderson, ESPN 20d

Seahawks need trade for Justin Coleman to keep paying off

RENTON, Wash. -- Richard Sherman had only one issue with new teammate Justin Coleman's pick-six.

"That was his first interception ever and his celebration game was stank," Sherman joked.

Coleman, a third-year cornerback acquired at the end of the preseason, gave the Seattle Seahawks an early lead Sunday night in an eventual blowout win over the Indianapolis Colts when he returned a second-quarter interception of Jacoby Brissett 28 yards for a score. He briefly held the ball in the air after crossing the goal line, skipped through the end zone and was greeted by several teammates, including Sherman. It was fairly nondescript as far as celebrations go, which was apparently Sherman's point.

"That's one of those things that you've got to work on, so we're working on that with him," Sherman said. "It’s his first one. So we'll give him a break. We'll give him a pass."

It's hard to find fault with much else that Coleman has done over his first month in Seattle. He's been something of an unsung hero for a defense that has twice needed him to step in, which he did in Week 1 and again against the Colts.

The Seahawks may have been taking more of long-term view when they acquired Coleman in a trade with the New England Patriots before the season opener, but that move is already paying off.

It was part of a sudden reshaping of Seattle's depth at cornerback. DeAndre Elliott had suffered a season-ending ankle injury in the final preseason game. The next day, Seattle gave New England a seventh-round pick for Coleman and dealt veteran Tramaine Brock to the Minnesota Vikings, which recouped a seventh-rounder.

So the Seahawks essentially swapped out Brock for Coleman, whose age (24) and club control (he'll be a restricted free agent after this season) gave him more long-term upside. He was also a better fit in the nickelback role, where Elliott had been in line to back up Jeremy Lane.

That's where Coleman has been an asset.

Lane's ejection in the first quarter of the season opener against the Green Bay Packers forced rookie Shaquill Griffin to take his place at right cornerback opposite Sherman. It also pressed Coleman into action in the slot, where Lane typically moves to in passing situations. Coleman played 41 snaps in that game and drew strong reviews from Seahaws coach Pete Carroll and defensive coordinator Kris Richard afterward.

Another early exit by Lane on Sunday night forced the Seahawks to adjust their secondary the same way. Coleman played 40 defensive snaps after Lane went down with a groin injury five plays in.

On his interception, Coleman fought through a push-off from wide receiver Kamar Aiken and managed to undercut the out-breaking route. Carroll also liked a play he made in the third quarter, when the Seahawks had yet to pull away and the Colts were threatening to take a lead. Coleman stuck with with the speedy T.Y. Hilton on a corner route, providing tight coverage as Brissett's third-down pass fell incomplete in the end zone. Indianapolis settled for the tying field goal.

Carroll noted how well Coleman has adjusted to Seattle's zone concepts after playing more man coverage in New England.

"He continues to play really good coverage," Carroll said. "He’s really improved in his zone stuff. He wasn’t a big zone guy coming in, so we had to teach him our stuff, and he’s flying around covering it like he did on the touchdown play he made. That was zone coverage and he did a great job of disguising the coverage, making his movement and breaking on the ball to make the play and convert and all of that.

"He has great feet. He has really good feet and he can cover guys and stay with guys, and made a really good crossover on the corner route that was thrown in the end zone. He just has good feel."

With Lane's status uncertain, Seattle may need to stick with that same alignment for Sunday's game against the Los Angeles Rams, if not beyond.

"He has a groin pull that we need to see how severe that is and what that means for the week," Carroll said. "It was enough to keep him out of the game, so there will be some concern about that. I thought what was really good was the play of Shaq jumping up at playing corner and also Justin Coleman coming in at nickel. He did a really good job there and that gave us a chance to play really good defense with those guys up, so if Jeremy can’t go, then those guys will step in."

Aside from Brandon Browner, the Seahawks haven't had much success under Carroll and general manager John Schneider with cornerbacks that weren't home grown. Sherman, Lane, DeShawn Shead, Byron Maxwell and Walter Thurmond were all either drafted by the team or signed as UDFAs. Cary Williams flopped as a free-agent signing. Will Blackmon couldn't stick in either of his two Seahawks stints. Seattle's trade for Mohammed Seisay didn't pan out.

So far, so good with Coleman.

"We’re very fortunate to have him," Carroll said. "He’s a great pickup."

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