In late April this year, BTB's Rabblerousr penned an article titled "Cowboys 2014 Draft Targets: Four Late-Round Defensive Tackles." In it, he profiled Ken Bishop, Davon Coleman, Chris Whaley and Kerry Hyder, arguing that the Cowboys see something familiar in these players: all four have similarities with former Cowboys seventh-round pick Jay Ratliff, "but without the bad attitude."
Rabble hit the nail on the proverbial head with his post, as Bishop (7th round), Coleman (UDFA) and Whaley (UDFA) are now all Dallas Cowboys. And while Whaley is on IR as he recovers from a college injury, both Bishop and Coleman look like locks for the 53-man roster despite their relatively low draft pedigree.
Davon Coleman in particular has been turning heads in his short stay with the Cowboys, so I went back and looked at Coleman's draft profile, which Rabble quoted in his post, and which I'm quoting selectively here to make a point:
Strengths: ...very good functional strength to take on blocks and redirect his man... very decisive player with no passiveness to his game...usually quick snap reaction and initiates contact in a hurry...
Coleman rode that ability to a 15.0 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks effort in his final year in college, and while he still needs coaching on pass rush moves, hand technique and the ability to disengage from blocks, you cannot coach quickness and burst. Which in turn led our own Dave Halprin to author a post titled "Davon Coleman Could Be The Cowboys Latest UDFA Steal." Notice the absence of a question mark in the title.
Coleman's strengths were on display last night against the Ravens. Coleman started the game as the 3-technique and played on eight of the 11 snaps the first-team defense (yeah, we'll generously stick with that term in the absence of healthier options) played last night, as the table below shows.
|BAL Drive No. 1|
|1||1-10-BLT 18 (3:25)||Pass incomplete||x|
|2||2-10-BLT 18 (3:19)||PENALTY. B.Carter, Defensive Holding - No Play.||x|
|3||1-10-BLT 23 (3:12)||Pass knocked down by N. Hayden||x|
|4||2-10-BLT 23 (3:08)||B.Pierce left tackle to 5 yards||x|
|5||3-5-BLT 28 (2:32)||Pass incomplete|
|BAL Drive No. 2|
|6||1-10-BLT 44 (14:02)||R.Rice left guard for 18 yards||x|
|7||1-10-DAL 38 (13:31)||R.Rice right end 3 yards||x|
|8||2-7-DAL 35 (12:56)||PENALTY. O.Scandrick, Defensive Holding - No Play.||x|
|9||1-10-DAL 30 (12:47)||B.Pierce up the middle for 4 yards||x|
|10||2-6-DAL 26 (12:08)||Pass short right to K.Juszczyk for 4 yards|
|11||3-2-DAL 22 (11:29)||Pass incomplete|
On four of those eight snaps, Coleman was the fastest lineman off the snap and the quickest to get penetration, which bodes very well for a player penciled in for a meaningful number of snaps at the all-important 3-technique spot this year. Here's an illustrated guide that shows just how uncannily quick Davon Coleman is off the snap:
Play No. 1
On the first snap of the game, Coleman penetrates the backfield with ease, chases down Joe Flacco and forces him into an incompletion.
Play No. 2
On the second snap of the game, Coleman is off the ball so fast that he's half a body length deeper into the Ravens backfield than any of his linemates. Compare his penetration to that of the defensive ends, Jeremy Mincey and Tyrone Crawford, who look slow and indecisive by comparison. The play ends up being called back due to a holding penalty on Bruce Carter
Play No. 4
Again, Coleman is in full attack mode while his fellow linemen have only begun to accelerate. In some ways, Coleman's quickness (or his anticipation of the snapcount) reminds me of DeMarcus Ware, who was also uncannily fast off the snap. I wonder if this will eventually lead to a similar number of offsides calls against Coleman. Anyway, in this play Coleman gets the early penetration but fails to sufficiently disengage from his blocker and meet the running back head on for a stop, though Coleman does eventually drag the running back down after a five-yard gain.
Play No. 6
In this closeup view you can easily see that Coleman already has his hands up and is beginning his rush while his fellow lineman still have their hands on the ground.
Play No. 10
This screenshot shows the Cowboys defensive line getting off the ball in perfect synchronicity. And they can do this because Davon Coleman is no longer in the game, otherwise the shot might have easily looked like one of the pictures above, with one guy getting off the ball quicker than the other guys.
This is just a short glimpse at the first few plays that featured the first units of both teams going at each other; Coleman would continue to show that explosive first step throughout the remainder of the game. It's far too early to proclaim Coleman anything but a rookie fighting for a roster spot, but the team has got to be encouraged by the early results from the next Cowboys UDFA who is almost a lock to make the 53-man roster.
And as Dave wrote in the post I referenced above:
Like I said, it's early, it's only one week of training camp. Just maybe, down the road, we'll be saying...did we really get Coleman as an UDFA?