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Scouting Jets running back Tevin Coleman

San Francisco 49ers v New York Jets Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Over the next few weeks, we’re going to take an in-depth look at each of the Jets’ offseason acquisitions, continuing today with running back Tevin Coleman.

The 27-year old is listed at 6’1” and 210 pounds and was a third round pick out of Indiana in 2015. In six NFL seasons, he’s rushed for almost 3,000 yards, caught 117 passes and scored 36 total touchdowns. He rushed for a career-high 800 yards in 2018 but struggled through an injury-plagued 2020 season.

Background

Coleman was a three-star high school prospect and the winner of the 2011 Southland Star Player of the Year award. He also ran track in high school.

Having committed to attend Indiana University, Coleman played in 12 games as a true freshman, starting two. While he didn’t feature much on offense, rushing for 225 yards and a touchdown and catching 10 passes for 49 yards, he contributed as the team’s kickoff returner with 566 yards and a score.

In 2013, he moved into a starting role, but missed the end of the season due to injury. He had rushed for 958 yards and 12 touchdowns in the first nine games and caught 19 passes.

Coleman’s junior year saw him develop into one of the best running backs in the nation as he ended up with over 2,000 rushing yards and went over seven yards per carry for the second straight year. He added a career-high 25 catches and scored 15 touchdowns as he was a consensus all-American and a first-team all-Big 10 selection.

After opting to enter the draft early despite a late season injury that disrupted his pre-draft preparation, Coleman solidified himself as a day two pick and ended up getting selected in the third round of the 2015 draft.

As a rookie, Coleman rushed for 392 yards and a score on 87 carries, but he took his game to the next level in 2016, rushing for over 500 yards and posting career highs in receiving yards (421), rushing touchdowns (eight) and total touchdowns (11).

In the 2016 playoffs, he scored in all three postseason games as the Falcons reached the Super Bowl and then had another productive season in 2017 with 628 rushing yards.

2018 was the best season of his career so far, as Coleman - who had only started six games in his first three seasons - made 14 starts and set career marks in rushing yards (800), yards per carry (4.8), receptions (32) and receiving touchdowns (five). He also went over 1,000 yards from scrimmage for the first time.

After four years with Atlanta, Coleman signed with the 49ers in 2019 and began the season as the number one back. However, over the course of the year he split more and more of the workload with Raheem Mostert until he took over as the leading rusher down the stretch.

Coleman still ended up with 544 rushing yards at an average of four yards per carry. He also caught 21 passes and scored seven total touchdowns. In the playoffs, Coleman racked up 105 yards and two scores in the divisional round win over the Vikings, but played a minor role in the other two games as his team once again won the NFC title game but lost the Super Bowl.

2020 was a rough year for Coleman, as he got injured in week two and spent time on injured reserve before returning at the end of October. He struggled to get on the field down the stretch and ended the season with just 53 rushing yards on 28 touches and four catches for 34 yards.

With his contract expiring at the end of the 2020 season, the Jets signed Coleman to a one-year deal in free agency.

Now let’s take a look at what Coleman brings to the table, divided into categories.

Measurables/Athleticism

Coleman was unable to work out at the scouting combine due to injury and hadn’t recovered enough to perform a full workout at his pro day but was able to run a 40-yard dash in 4.40 and register 22 bench press reps.

His speed and explosiveness shows up on film as he has good burst and acceleration and a second gear once he gets going.

Usage

Coleman gets most of his reps as a conventional tailback but has also seen plenty of work in two-back sets.

As with most running backs, he’ll motion out wide at times and he has also been effective as a receiving option out of the slot.

Running ability

As noted, Coleman’s burst and acceleration stand out on film. He has the speed to get to the outside and hits the hole at speed with his direct, balanced style. This makes him a big play threat. In his career, Coleman has had seven touchdown of 30 yards or more, including five as a rusher.

Coleman has pretty good size and can run with power. While he’s still listed at only 210 pounds, he reportedly gained 10-15 pounds during the 2017 offseason. He can fall forward at the end of a run, break tackles and stiff arm defensive players in the open field.

While, he’s not really a flashy runner that will make spin moves or hurdle over defenders, Coleman displays some good change of direction abilities and elusiveness in the open field.

Fumbles were a concern after his rookie year, as he lost three and clearly needed to work on his ball security. However, he hasn’t lost one since and didn’t fumble at all in San Francisco.

Naturally, the concern with Coleman after a year where he averaged less than two yards per carry is that he has nothing left in the tank. However, it’s worth noting that although he didn’t play much, he arguably had more good games than bad games as a rusher last season.

He gained 12 yards on 14 carries against the Jets and minus-11 yards on two carries against Atlanta, but gained 52 yards on 12 carries in the other games. Hopefully, this means he could still be productive if he gets healthy and the Jets block well for him.

Short yardage

Coleman has had some success in short yardage situations, with 11 of his touchdowns in regular season or postseason play having come from the one or two-yard line. He has a good nose for the goal line and the power to push the pile to break the plane.

Pass catching

Coleman’s open field running makes him a good option on screen passes, but he is also someone who is capable of running routes from the slot and making catches down the field.

Although Coleman wasn’t much of a receiving threat in college, averaging just seven yards per catch and not scoring any touchdowns, he’s showed real development in this area at the pro level, scoring 12 touchdowns and making a lot of big plays, both down the field and on short passes. On this play, he makes a tough catch in traffic.

He’s been highly efficient when targeted from the slot and has also been a big play threat, averaging 20 yards per catch. He only averages eight yards per catch when targeted out of the backfield. He’s able to leak downfield for big plays from time to time.

Coleman hasn’t had major issues with dropping catches, as he’s never had more than four in a season. However, he has lost focus and had some drops at times.

He has had one 100-yard receiving game in his career.

Blocking

Coleman’s blocking abilities bring something to the Jets which the incumbent backs on the roster lack experience in. He had the seventh highest number of pass block snaps of all NFL running backs in 2018.

In his first three seasons, Coleman gave up three sacks as he developed his abilities within this role.

However, he’s improved since then, with just one sack surrendered since 2018. He’s aggressive and has plenty of highlights where he takes a blitzer down or lights them up.

Coleman has been called for one offensive holding penalty in his career so far. This was also while picking up a blitz in 2019.

Special Teams

Coleman was a good kick returner in college, with one touchdown in his freshman year, but hasn’t been used in that role in the NFL, other than a few preseason reps where he didn’t get a chance to return the ball.

He didn’t play much on special teams in Atlanta, with the occasional rep in punt protection, as a kick return blocker or rushing punts. However, he took on more special teams duties last season, even getting some reps as a punt gunner and registering the first tackle of his career.

Instincts

Coleman displays good vision and has a direct running style that makes him perfect for stretch zone plays and a one-cut running game. He also has good vision at the second level and in the open field to breakaway for long runs.

In pass protection, he doesn’t give up a lot of pressure, but when he does it’s usually because he picked up the wrong man or reacted late rather than getting beaten by a pass rush move.

He has had one pre-snap penalty for an illegal shift in his career.

Attitude

Coleman was a good leader in college, and he was named as a team captain in his junior year.

He has a good work ethic and remained a positive influence in San Francisco despite having to deal with a reduced role.

His on-field discipline has been good, with just two penalties in six seasons.

Injuries

Coleman spent half the season on injured reserve with a sprained knee in 2020, but has otherwise had minor injury issues, as he played at least 12 games in each of his first five seasons (although he only played all 16 once). He fractured a rib in 2015, injured his hamstring in 2016 and had a high ankle sprain in 2019.

In college, Coleman missed the last three games with an ankle sprain as a sophomore and injured his foot at the end of his junior year.

Coleman was born three months early and has the sickle cell trait, which doesn’t affect him most of the time, but can limit him at high altitude. Ironically, though, this didn’t prevent him from racking up the only 100-yard receiving game of his career in a road game in Denver. On that occasion, Coleman said he was only affected in terms of how many plays he could handle without requiring a break.

Scheme Fit

Coleman is obviously a good fit for the system and will bring good familiarity having played the last two seasons with a 49ers team that featured current Jets head coach Robert Saleh, offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur and offensive line coach John Benton on the coaching staff.

In addition, he had already played his first two seasons in Atlanta with Kyle Shanahan as his offensive coordinator, so he already had good familiarity with Shanahan’s offense when he arrived in San Francisco with Shanahan now the head coach.

Current Jets defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich was a linebackers coach with the Falcons during Coleman’s four years in Atlanta, adding a further layer of familiarity.

At Indiana, current Jets’ offensive lineman Dan Feeney was one of the top blockers for Coleman. Coleman was also a teammate of kicker Chase McLaughlin while in San Francisco.

Conclusions

One thing the 49ers offensive coaches may have learned over the past few years is that you don’t need to invest a lot of money in the running back position because a lower cost alternative can produce as long as the blocking in front of him is good.

Coleman is a low-risk move, but with a potential high upside, much like most of the Jets’ offseason additions have been. If he can stay healthy, his ability to pass protect and mentor the younger backs on the roster should secure him an important role in 2021.