New York Jets running back Tevin Coleman has produced at an incredible level as a receiver when lined up in the slot.
The New York Jets had one of the least intimidating backfields in football last season, and one of the biggest reasons why is that they did not have anybody at the running back position who was a threat in the passing game. The Jets’ running backs combined for 386 receiving yards, ranking 30th among the league’s 32 backfields. They scored only one touchdown through the air and combined to average 5.3 yards per target, ranking 24th.
With the addition of Tevin Coleman, the Jets should be able to turn this weakness into a strength. Coleman has been one of the league’s most effective pass-catching running backs ever since his breakout 2016 season in Atlanta, consistently producing at a much higher level as a receiver than the average running back.
Coleman does most of his damage from the backfield, as he has lined up out wide or in the slot on just 15.7% of his career snaps in the passing game.
However, while he has rarely lined up outside of the backfield, Coleman has produced at an absolutely staggering level in those instances. Particularly, he has showcased remarkable potential in the slot.
Coleman has run a route out of the slot only 64 times in his career (6.3% of all routes run). Over those 64 routes run out of the slot, Coleman caught 16 of 19 targets for 330 yards and three touchdowns, giving him averages of 17.4 yards per target and 5.16 yards per route run.
Let’s put into perspective how ridiculous those numbers are. In 2020, the NFL’s qualified leader in yards per target was Will Fuller with a mark of 11.7. Slot Coleman beats that out by 49%. The NFL’s qualified leader in yards per route run was Davante Adams at 2.96. Slot Coleman beats that number out by 74%.
Coleman’s total of 64 routes run out of the slot represents approximately two games’ worth of routes run for the typical starting wide receiver in the NFL. So, an easy way to look at it is that, as a slot receiver, Coleman has essentially posted 15 catches for 324 yards and three touchdowns over two games. That’s 162.0 yards per game (pace for 2,592 over 16 games), which is quite good, to say the least.
With numbers like that, it’s bewildering that Coleman’s teams did not flex him out into the slot more often. Perhaps Mike LaFleur will attempt to tap into Coleman’s otherworldly potential as a slot weapon.
Let’s take a look at how Coleman has managed to produce like a 2,500-yard receiver when lined up in the slot.
Coleman ran only two routes out of the slot in 2020, and one of them resulted in an 18-yard catch against the Jets. He shows quite a few exciting traits on this rep against Gregg Williams’ defense in Week 2.