Could defensive end Kenyon Coleman be the latest Oakland Raider defensive lineman that seldom played as a rookie but makes a quantum leap in his second season?
That scenario seems like a distinct possibility.
If recent history means anything, good things are ahead for Coleman, who played just one game last season.
Defensive tackle Rod Coleman and defensive end DeLawrence Grant are two examples of players who played little as rookies and contributed in their second season. Coleman played in just three games as a rookie in 1999 but played 13 games the following season and tallied six sacks. Grant suited up for just two games as a rookie in 2001 but started 14 games last season and showed outstanding progress.
"Our lockers are right next to each other," Kenyon Coleman said. "He just said, ‘Kenyon, I was in your position last year. Just work hard. It's going to make you hungrier.'"
Coleman, whom Oakland drafted in the fifth round from UCLA, continues to impress the coaching staff with his pass rushing ability. Coleman, who has been taking some reps with the first team defense, appears quicker after dropping 18 pounds, going from 288 to 270.
"He has had one outstanding offseason," Raiders head coach Bill Callahan said. "He committed himself and really changed himself physically. If he really works hard to complete his game as a pass rusher, he'll be a force. He's made real positive strides."
Coleman added that 270 are the lightest he has been since his sophomore campaign.
"In the offseason, I wanted to get faster," Coleman said. "I know the coaches say I'm getting off the ball a lot better. I just feel good out there."
Coleman's first chance to show his improvement in a game situation will come Aug. 8 against St. Louis. Coleman's progress, however, has garnered the attention of Raiders Pro Bowl right tackle Lincoln Kennedy.
"He's a lot more active," Kennedy said. "I think he's really elevated his game. He's keyed in as far as his pass rush. You're kind of out of place in a new environment. The game's a little bit faster."
Coleman has a significant chance to earn serious playing time, if not start, because defensive end is perhaps Oakland's most unsettled position. The Raiders lost Regan Upshaw to free agency and released Tony Bryant. In addition, Oakland has a 16th year veteran (Trace Armstrong) whose season has ended on injured reserve for two consecutive years and an untested rookie (Tyler Brayton) competing for one starting spot.
"I don't think you can let situations motivate you," Coleman said. "You just have to be motivated internally because situations can change. You never know what's going to happen. If you let situations motivate you you're not going to succeed."
Coleman, however, took advantage of the opportunity to pick the brain of various experienced Raiders.
"Getting to know them and watching tons of film, you learn a lot," Coleman said. "You can soak it all in. I'm fortunate to have those veterans."
Vince D'Adamo can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org