White Sulphur Springs, W. Va. – Pump the brakes on the full-blown comparisons, Brandon Coleman says.
Yes, the continual mentioning of him in the same sentences as Marques Colston is flattering and, absolutely, there are far worse links that can be made than to the best receiver in New Orleans Saints history.
But one Saints receiver is entering his 10th season and is an established big-game hunter – 666 receptions for 9,239 yards and 68 touchdowns, all franchise records. The other hasn't yet played in a regular-season game and in his first year, 2014, was waived at the end of training camp, signed to the practice squad, released from the practice squad, re-signed to the practice squad and, finally, signed to the active roster near the end of the season.
Right now, Coleman knows the parallel drawn is more about the method in which they came to be Saints (Colston was the 252nd pick in the 2006 draft, fourth from last, and Coleman wasn't drafted at all), and about their near-identical size (he's 6 feet 6, 225 pounds and Colston is 6-4, 225) than it is about production.
"I would like to compare myself to (Colston), but he has some big shoes," Coleman said. "I can't even look forward to that. I've got to start building my own way, first."
The first step was last season, when the undrafted rookie from Rutgers began to justify the Saints' choice to bring him in. The next layer of foundation is being laid during training camp at The Greebrier, where Coleman's improvement from last year becomes more evident by the day.
No longer is he the impressive-looking prospect whose hands appeared suspect. Now, he's the big-bodied target who catches the vast majority of what is thrown his way, shielding off defensive backs that can't possibly fight their way through him to the football.
"You have a bigger radius, so your target area when you're throwing is bigger," Coach Sean Payton said Sunday. "So as you're a quarterback throwing a slant, or you're throwing an 'in' cut, that radius is just a bigger target. And I think that's one of his strengths."
"I've always been a big-bodied receiver so it's been a natural thing for me to use my size to my advantage," Coleman said.
That advantage may help give him an advantage over the receivers vying for snaps behind Colston and Brandin Cooks. Simply, his size can't be taught. It's the other, finer points of the position in the NFL that he's learning to sharpen, with an assist from Colston.
"Since I got here, from Day 1, Colston and I have been talking about things on and off the field," Coleman said. "I'm grateful for that.
"It's little things, like, if I come off after a play, I will come and seek his guidance and what he would have done in situations."
That advice and Coleman's own hard work have led to a performance jump for him. Coleman is more decisive in his movements, more knowledgeable about the game and more physically prepared to deliver.
"I really think Brandon has made a lot of strides from Year 1 to Year 2, and part of that is his health," Payton said. "He's healthy, his legs are stronger, he's extremely competitive, he works hard at it and you can see that carry over to the snaps he's getting. And he's also very smart like Marques was."
Said Coleman: "It's not a lot different. It's just Year 2, and I feel a lot more confident and I'm just going with the flow. I'm satisfied but there's always more for me. I'm hungry so I just want to keep getting better.
"I feel like I'm stronger physically, I worked on that this offseason. I think it's starting to show out there, I've just got to be consistent with it."
He'll have the chance to do just that for the Saints, in training camp and, perhaps, during the regular season. The comparisons to Colston may not cease but, in time, Coleman hopes to make them more about the game than about the frame.