Kurt Coleman was one of the unexpected surprises in the Carolina Panthers 2015 season. He was tied for the lead in interceptions in the NFC with seven. Coleman was drafted in the 7th round in 2010 and he spent time with three teams in five seasons. There was no guarantee he would make the Panthers roster in training camp. He ended up not only making the roster, but also winning the starting free safety job.
The Panthers defense under defensive coordinator Sean McDermott are a zone heavy team. They show many single high looks in cover 1 and cover 3. Seahawks Safety Earl Thomas is the pinnacle for these type of coverages due to his instincts and outstanding range. Kurt Coleman is not Earl Thomas. Nonetheless, Coleman proved in 2015 that defenses can have success without an Earl Thomas in single high coverage. Let’s review each of Coleman’s seven regular season interceptions to find out how he was able to flourish. Samuel Gold wrote about his two vital interceptions in the NFC Championship game. Be sure to check that out here.
Offense: 11 Personnel
Defense: 4-3 over, Cover 1 man
I consulted with @blitzology for the playcall, but he said this is an old school Dirk Koetter terminology. The play is called Trio Right Smoke Right 3 Stick Dragon. There is a three step drop by the quarterback and the progression goes left to right. The Panthers are in cover 1 man underneath. Coleman is the single high safety.
Jameis Winston makes the correct read, but defensive tackle Kawann Short deflects the pass at the line of scrimmage. Kurt Coleman is reading the quarterback’s eyes. He cheats to the strong side of the formation, but he stays on his toes to dive for the interception. This is smart positioning and a good display of ball skills. That becomes a theme for most of his interceptions.
Offense: 11 Personnel
Defense: Nickel, Cover 3
The curl flat route combination on the right side of the field is a clear out for T.Y Hilton’s deep dig across the field. The Panthers are in a cover 3. Coleman is the single high safety responsible for the deep middle of the field.
The route combinations are intended to give Andrew Luck a window for Hilton. The curl and flat routes on the right side eliminate two defenders. The Colts are attempting to make Roman Harper make a decision. Luke Kuechly anticipates the route by the running back and that leaves the middle open for Hilton. This was a poor throw by Luck. Coleman, to his credit, stayed patient and intercepted the pass.
Offense: 02 Personnel
Defense: Nickel, Cover 4 zone dog blitz
The flat 7 combination is a classic cover 2 or cover 4 beater. The offense is trying to put stress on the cornerbacks and safeties to make a decision. Should Josh Norman gain more depth to protect the 7 route or does he sink to defend the flat route? Josh Norman sinks to protect the flat route, but Kurt Coleman plays with excellent depth at the top of the numbers to close on the ball. Marcus Mariota does not set his feet, so the ball sails.
In addition, this was simply poor effort from WR Dorial Green Beckham. Kurt Coleman makes a fine play on the ball, but the receiver needs to exert a bit more effort.