Coleman wraps up QB John Kitna
The acquisition of defensive end Kenyon Coleman this past spring may not have looked like much at the time. On paper, he appeared to be a veteran backup lineman with average statistics. A few eyebrows were raised throughout Jets Nation when general manager Mike Tannenbaum signed him to a five-year contract.
"They can say that fairly," Coleman said in reply to those who doubted the Jets' interest in him earlier this year. "Most of my career I was a backup. Throughout my professional career I've only started five games, so I can understand where they're coming from."
After Sunday's performance against New England, he showed something else after just two quarters of play, a glimpse of what he has to offer to this Jets defensive line.
When the Jets hosted the Patriots on Sunday, the 6'5", 295-pound California native surprised many when in just the sixth start of his six-year career, he had a game-leading and career-high 12 tackles, including seven in the first half.
"I was really happy with Kenyon's performance," said head coach Eric Mangini in Thursday morning's press conference. "I have been and was pleased with Kenyon in the game and really throughout his time here."
When scouting Coleman in the off-season, Mangini saw a lot more in the 28-year-old UCLA alum than others might have. Most scouts may have overlooked Coleman based on one look at his numbers.
"I'm just glad the coaching staff here saw something else," Coleman recalled.
The most convincing evidence was perhaps the most obvious: his experience and knowledge of the 3-4 defense under former Cowboys and Jets head coach Bill Parcells.
"Just having worked with Bill and understanding the way he's run the 3-4, I'd imagine there's a lot of similarities," Mangini said back in August. "I think that was the really positive thing about scouting a guy like Kenyon. You can look and you can see the similar blocking schemes. He was a person that we obviously liked very much in free agency."
In the previous four seasons with Dallas, Coleman appeared in 56 games for the Cowboys Last season he had a career year despite not starting one game. His 31 tackles more than doubled any previous season's total while his four sacks, two pass deflections and one forced fumble went well above any prior season total. Such progression and grasp of the usually difficult 3-4 caught the eye of the Jets staff, including defensive coordinator Bob Sutton.
"We obviously thought a lot of Kenyon in our evaluation when we brought him here," said Sutton. "He's had the advantage of being in a very similar system from a technique standpoint and even some of the terminology. When we evaluated him we got to see him in a similar style of defense. That made his transition a lot easier."
His impact so far in New York has reached beyond his outstanding Week 1 performance.
"He's been a great addition in terms of the locker room and the value he adds there," said Mangini. "It struck me that he had a good relationship not just with the defensive line very early on but with the whole group. He's a guy that does spend time with a lot of different areas. It's not specifically just hanging out with the defensive linemen."
"He's very conscientious," Sutton said. "He's a guy that comes to work every day trying to improve, and I think if he keeps doing those things he's going to be a very good football player for us."
Although his stats were impressive, the outcome in the Jets' kickoff weekend was clearly not. The defense let up 38 points and 431 total net yards and overshadowed his Jets debut.
Now, after trying to contain Tom Brady and company, Coleman and the rest of the defense have to bounce back and prepare for two experienced Baltimore quarterbacks in Steve McNair, who's been limited at practice the first two days this week with a groin injury, and Kyle Boller.
"We are just going to build on what we have to do," Coleman faithfully replied. "I understand we have a lot of pressure and what not, but we're going to work on that and do our best."