EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants won for the first time in more than seven weeks, and the first name uttered out of coach Pat Shurmur’s mouth at his postgame news conference was a wide receiver and kick returner who didn’t score a touchdown and is on his fourth team this year.
With a growing role, Corey Coleman made a strong impression in Monday night’s 27-23 victory over the San Francisco 49ers. He caught Shurmur’s eye. Coleman had his first catch as a Giant and returned three kickoffs for 92 yards, which didn’t include a 43-yarder that was negated by a penalty. He had a long of 51 yards that came when the Giants, down by 10 points, desperately needed a play and which set up an Odell Beckham Jr. touchdown four players later.
Coleman’s performance should lead to an even greater workload moving forward. The Giants host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.
“He’ll get in. He’s a very talented young man,” Shurmur said. “I’ve gained a fast appreciation of him. He’s very energetic. He’s really into it. He’s trying to learn everything.”
Coleman played eight offensive snaps Monday night after not playing at all in the Giants’ previous game. He hauled in a key pass on third-and-9 in the second quarter against the 49ers when he ran a curl and caught the ball in traffic. Quarterback Eli Manning trusted him enough to throw the timing pattern into coverage.
This all meant something to a player who wasn’t depicted favorably in “Hard Knocks” before his exit from the Cleveland Browns and bounced around rosters, practice squads and tryouts before landing with the Giants last month. Coleman also spent time with the New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills earlier this year. He didn’t stick.
His first catch of the season was essentially the first catch of his second chance at being a productive NFL player.
“It was a big deal,” Coleman said after Monday’s game.
It wasn’t lost on his teammates, who have welcomed him with open arms into a tight-knit wide receivers room. Coleman has known Sterling Shepard since they played together and against each other at high school camps.
“It’s great to see because the guy has kind of been through a lot these last couple months, kind of bounced around a couple times,” Shepard said. “He was able to get a shot and he capitalized on the opportunity. It’s always good to see guys come in and be able to make an impact, especially someone who has been through a lot like him.”
It was evident afterward. Veteran wide receivers Beckham and Russell Shepard were overtly excited about Coleman’s contributions. Shurmur came over and provided some extra words of encouragement in the locker room.
A first-round pick of the Browns in 2016, Coleman appears to be gaining the Giants’ trust, little by little.
“It means everything for him to believe in me to be a part of this team, to give me this opportunity,” Coleman said of Shurmur. “He’s a wonderful guy and coach. I have a lot of respect for him. He pushes me every day. I’m excited.”
The Giants are looking for more out of their third wide receiver. Coleman might be able to give it to them. While Beckham and Sterling Shepard played 56 of 59 offensive snaps against San Francisco, Bennie Fowler was next among wide receivers with 26. Coleman played eight and Russell Shepard one.
Fowler was targeted once and did not catch a pass against the 49ers. It makes sense for him to evolve into more of a blocking third receiver, with Coleman as the passing-down option and kickoff returner.
Whatever it is, Coleman is in the team’s short-term plans, with an opportunity to work his way into the Giants' long-term plans.
“We’re just trying to get him going,” Shurmur said. “The good thing about a receiver or really any skill player on offense is you can use him as sort of a role player until he can handle the full load. That’s what we’ll do.”
It’s more than Coleman had been doing the first nine weeks of the season.