Three Detroit Lions players looking to bounce back in 2020

Detroit Lions (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
Detroit Lions (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images) /
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Justin Coleman, Detroit Lions
Justin Coleman, Detroit Lions (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images) /

Justin Coleman, slot corner

For the first month and a half of last season, Justin Coleman burst into Motown like a boxing kangaroo. No, I’m not trying to make that a thing, but that’s the best way I can describe him bouncing around wherever the ball was and using uncanny quickness and timing to knock it loose through the first month. In short, Coleman looked like the perfect addition in the defensive backfield to complement Darius Slay and Quandre Diggs.

Through six games, the slot corner had already defended nine passes, forced two fumbles, recovered one, snagged an interception, and even adopted the swaggering ‘Big Play’ finger wave celebration. Just a few months later, things unfortunately looked a lot different, both for Coleman and the Lions defense as a whole.

Diggs being traded away midseason was the first domino to fall. Slay’s response (probably not the most mature) couldn’t have helped the morale for that unit either. The scheme and defensive line couldn’t generate any pressure, and by the end of the season, the Lions passing defense was one of the worst in franchise history. For his part, Coleman went cold the rest of the way, stopped forcing turnovers, committed more penalties, and gave up way too much yardage in coverage.

Coleman now finds himself as the last remaining member of the trio I just mentioned. As a slot corner, his role doesn’t change despite the level of change among Lions DBs. Along with newcomers Jeffrey Okudah and Desmond Trufant (and second year cornerback Amani Oruwariye), the streaky Coleman will enter 2020 looking to regain the edge he came in with.

He’s not the most versatile player and hardly a lockdown defender, but Coleman also has shown ability, instincts, and ball-hawking skills that can make him a real X-factor under the right conditions, like we saw for the opening stretch of games in 2019. Only this time, have it last the whole season.

Next man up: Amani Oruwariye. This one is a bit of a stretch, though Oruwariye did see a few snaps in the slot in his limited action a year ago.  For better or worse, considering Coleman’s skill set and somewhat niche role on the inside of the secondary, I don’t see him getting benched.