It will be easy for Patriots fans to get worked up with high expectations after New England’s reported addition of first-round wide receiver Corey Coleman. Try to settle down and remember Phillip Dorsett.
Coleman, a first-round pick in his third NFL season, is entering a nearly identical situation as Dorsett did in 2017. Dorsett also was a first-round pick entering his third NFL season when he was traded to the Patriots prior to Week 1. He wound up with 12 catches on just 18 targets for 194 yards without a touchdown in 15 games. Despite hard work, Dorsett struggled to make an impact as he attempted to learn the Patriots’ complex playbook on the fly.
And Dorsett was far from the first wide receiver who joined the Patriots late and failed to make a big impact. Look at the stat lines of Doug Gabriel, Keshawn Martin, Greg Salas, Andre Davis and Jabar Gaffney in their first seasons with the Patriots. All of those receivers came to New England after training camp and played a similar game of catchup.
Now Dorsett is in his second season with the Patriots and looked much more comfortable in Week 1 when he caught seven passes on seven targets for 66 yards with a touchdown. These things take time for receivers on the Patriots.
Coleman and Dorsett are similar players, too. They’re both undersized speedsters who were targeted deep at a high clip on their former teams. Coleman was targeted deep on 26 percent of his total targets in 2017 and 25.8 percent in 2016. That makes sense, given the former Cleveland Browns receiver’s 4.4-second 40-yard dash speed.
But Coleman also was viewed as a raw route runner coming out of Baylor, and he caught just 42.7 percent of his total targets in Cleveland. Before you make your jokes, Browns quarterbacks completed 58.8 percent of passes while not targeting Coleman during that same timespan. Coleman dropped 12.5 percent of his catchable targets with the Browns, according to Pro Football Focus. He also had a hard time learning the Bills’ playbook when he was traded to Buffalo this summer.
Coleman should be viewed as receiver injury insurance. The Patriots have just five full-time wideouts on their 53-man roster in Coleman, Dorsett, Chris Hogan, Cordarrelle Patterson and Bennie Fowler. Expect Dorsett, Hogan and Patterson to continue to run as the Patriots’ top three receivers until Julian Edelman returns from his suspension in Week 5.
But the Patriots needed bodies in case a receiver goes down before Edelman comes back. Enter Coleman and Fowler. The Patriots could use Coleman similar to Patterson and try to get the ball in his hands on screen passes and deep routes. Fowler is more of a traditional wideout who also will contribute on special teams.
The Patriots are basically on Plan Q and R with Coleman and Fowler. Malcolm Mitchell, Cody Hollister, Riley McCarron, Kenny Britt, Jordan Matthews, Braxton Berrios, Chris Lacy, Devin Lucien, Paul Turner, Eric Decker, K.J. Maye, Amara Darboh and Chad Hansen all didn’t work out. The Patriots will continue to bring in wide receivers until they find a fit, and Coleman has higher upside, based on his pedigree and athleticism, than most.
But it would be unwise to expect Coleman to be a regular contributor to the offense. Just look at Dorsett, who had fewer question marks coming to New England. And clearly, there’s a reason why Coleman is on his third team in a month.
For more grades, advanced statistics and more at Pro Football Focus, go to ProFootballFocus.com.
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