There is a lot of complaining about Drew Coleman's play of late. A lot of people seem to feel that Coleman is a major liability in coverage. Based on what I have seen, I am not sure this is entirely fair. How bad has he really been, though?
I took a look at the numbers the Jets posted against receivers three and below on opponents' depth charts. Is this totally accurate? No, but Coleman most often lines up in the slot against the most targeted guy third or below on the depth chart. This can at least point us in the right direction.
Football Outsiders says the Jets are allowing 42.8 yards per game to such receivers. That is below the league average of 44.5 yards per game. That rates fourteenth in the league, again slightly above average. Outsiders use a stat call DVOA which rates effectiveness relative to the average situation. They have the Jets 9.5% above league average.
Again, this is not exactly a perfect measure because it accounts for the work guys lower on the depth chart against wide receivers lower on the depth chart, which has generally been very good. It also accounts for snaps where coverage calls for Darrelle Revis or Antonio Cromartie are on a lower receiver.
Even so, I feel like this number would be much worse relative to the league if Coleman was playing that poorly. There is plenty of incentive to attack him. On most plays, he is covering the best receiver a team has not being covered by Revis or Cromartie. Teams aren't having a field day against the underbelly of the secondary, though, contrary to popular belief.
I also think the numbers are a bit skewed. Lately Drew has allowed a lot of completions, but I have noticed that most of them seem to have come on plays when the Jets have generated zero pass rush, and the quarterback has had all day to throw. Numbers don't always tell the whole story. Yardage for this stat counts the same whether a corner plays allows an opening after four seconds of good coverage or blows it totally off the bat. The second is the fault of the corner. The first is the pass rush forcing the coverage to do an impossible job.'
I do not think Coleman is an elite nickel. The Jets could certainly do better, and Kyle Wilson developing to his potential to take the spot would be most welcome. I do not think, however, he has been abysmal. Last year he looked like a guy with zero cover skills. He sure looked it against the Colts in the Playoffs. I have a little more faith this time around because he has gotten better. The situation could stand to improve, but it could also be much worse.