New Orleans Saints receiver Brandon Coleman lived up to his super-sleeper status a little too much in last week's preseason opener. He barely saw the field in the first half before being targeted twice in the second half and catching zero passes.
Coleman's absence was so unusual compared to his standout production throughout training camp that both he and coach Sean Payton were asked if he had been disciplined -- possibly as a result of Coleman's autograph hoax when he impersonated veteran Marques Colston last week. Both said that wasn't the case. And Payton also pointed out that it wasn't injury-related.
Payton insisted, however, that Coleman will be much more involved in the second preseason game against the New England Patriots on Saturday night -- getting a lot of work with the starters. Coleman will presumably do the same in joint practices against New England over the next two days.
And based on the way Coleman has consistently lined up in nickel packages alongside starters Colston and Brandin Cooks, this past week, I'm betting Coleman's "sleeper" hype will rise again by the end of the weekend.
"He's healthy, and there was no specific rhyme or reason," Payton said of Coleman's lack of playing time in Week 1. "Obviously there are a lot of guys at that position. But he's been playing too well, and we feel like you'll see him get a lot of work this week with the ones. You'll see in the game Saturday with the ones."
Coleman, who went undrafted out of Rutgers last year, has been one of the breakout young players in Saints camp this year at a position where they need some young players to emerge after trading away top pass-catching targets Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills.
With his big 6-foot-6, 225-pound frame and wide catch radius, Coleman has been a go-to target for all of the Saints' quarterbacks, especially when they're under duress, since he's able to win so many jump balls.
He looks smoother on the field than he did last summer, as he's talked about his improved health and improved confidence. He seems to have emerged as the leading contender for New Orleans' No. 3 receiver job early in camp, supplanting more experienced players like Nick Toon, Joseph Morgan and Josh Morgan, among others.
"I'm happy, but I've got a long way to go. I've just gotta stay consistent and keep doing my job and keep putting days together that I can be proud of," said Coleman, who said he's eager for the opportunity to test himself against another team this week -- especially the reigning Super Bowl champs.
"It's a new defense that you get to go against," Coleman said, "and it's an opportunity that you can once again showcase to coaches what you can do."
Coleman gained notice for the wrong reasons last week when he apologized to fans via Twitter for dressing up in Colston's helmet and jersey to sign autographs.
He said Tuesday that it was meant as a "harmless joke" and "just a little training camp humor," and that it was inspired by the way so many people have compared him to Colston over the past two years -- including Payton.
If Coleman can keep his impressions to on-field work, all will quickly be forgiven.
"I think Brandon has made similar strides (to Colston during his rookie summer of 2006), so I'm excited about his growth," Payton said. "He's very smart and very detailed. We just need to get him more snaps."