The last preseason game showed that throwing him the ball meant there was a less than 50-50 chance of success. He caught five of 11 intended passes for an average of 10.4 yards per catch. Of course, not all of the throws were on the money, either. Some weren't even close.
But when Coates' hands are the topic, look a bit above those hands to his wrists. One wrist is dedicated to Kayla Ray, an Auburn student fighting terminal brain cancer. The other wrist is for Kenzie Ray, a then-11-year-old he met by chance in a post-game meeting in 2013. The plastic bracelets bearing their names never leave him.
“It just reminds me that what I’m going through right now is not that big of a deal, you know?" Coates said. "It’s something I can overcome every day, and push through it every day, but they have to fight constantly, every second of their lives.”
Coates’s story might not be so different from Martavis Bryant’s. Last regular season, Bryant – like Coates – needed some time to develop. He was inactive until the end of October before finally exploding on the scene with a 35-yard touchdown catch on the first pass thrown to him against Houston.
While Coates' current stats might not make this clear, he's making an impression and will stick around after the final roster is drafted. His cliffhanger hands may need work, but he is improving. He is getting the feel of making the shift from college to the NFL, and he's paying close attention to the veterans. When it comes down to fighting for field position, he shows that he's willing to assert himself and get physical,
When Coates is asked what he would like to work on for the remainder of camp, it’s a simple but broad answer:
On the hands issue, it's definitely best placed in the “To Be Continued” category. But based on his own experience, with adversity and pieces of his heart he gives to people with battles he judges to be greater than his own, Coates seems comfortable with blowing past odds and statistics.
One day at a time, one catch at a time.
For Coates, he sees himself still very much as a work in progress. And that progress, he feels, is built one day at a time, and one catch at a time. Which is where consistency is created, as well.
“I just like to play. I love this game. I’ve got a lot of blessings with it, and I was blessed with talent. I just want to get better and reveal that every day,” he said.
So far, he's done that.