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John DeShazier: Seantavious Jones, Brandon Coleman ready to take advantage of opportunity

Both young receivers are big targets

Photos of the New Orleans Saints OTA on June 4, 2015. Photos by Alex Restrepo (New Orleans Saints photos)

Seantavious Jones and Brandon Coleman are not twins.

But inextricably linked due to size, circumstance and opportunity? The New Orleans Saints receivers absolutely are that, which makes it virtually impossible right now to not consider the two a matching set.

Each is an imposing target, Jones at 6 feet 3 and 200 pounds, Coleman at 6-6, 225. Both are 22-year-olds who entered the league last season as undrafted rookies – Jones from Valdosta (Ga.) State and Coleman from Rutgers – and spent most of the year on the Saints' practice squad before earning a late-season signing to the active roster, Jones on Dec. 11 and Coleman on Dec. 26.

And each has a chance to earn a position on the opening week, 53-man roster this year, a spot in the receiver rotation and to make an impact on the field.

The Saints' two leading receivers from 2014 – tight end Jimmy Graham (85 catches for 889 yards and 10 touchdowns) and receiver Kenny Stills (63-931-3) – were traded to Seattle and Miami, respectively, this offseason. And mainstay Robert Meachem, an eight-year veteran, currently isn't with the team.

For Jones and Coleman, the door is open. The opportunity is there to storm through it, or to watch others burst in ahead of them.

"It's not a 'golden opportunity,' it's just an opportunity," Coleman said last week. "I've had opportunities before, in high school and college and at this level. So I've just got to take advantage of it, simple as that."

"I really do (feel I have a chance to get into the rotation)," Jones said. "I'm just trying to take advantage of every opportunity so I can make the 53-man roster and help this organization any way I can.

"Cole is my guy. We work together, we do everything together. He and I are trying to make this roster together."

The best way to do that is to continue becoming the receivers that Saints envisioned when the franchise signed them as undrafted rookies. And the proof of them being on that track is the fact that New Orleans, when given the opportunities, didn't select a receiver in this year's draft.

Instead, the Saints partially leaned on the improvement of Jones and Coleman as a reason to not spend a pick on a receiver.

And so far, the team hasn't seen a reason to regret its decision.

"We had a chance to see a lot of it last year and I mentioned that heading into this offseason, (and) those guys have worked hard in the offseason," Coach Sean Payton said last week. "They are two of the guys competing for spots out here and obviously both of them are big targets, but we have some good depth and good competition at that position.

"They are in their second year. They were two guys that obviously made an impression on us on the practice squad last year. They have had a good offseason with the (on-field) workouts and (in) the weight room.

"The first thing we evaluate is does the player know what to do, and those guys in their second year are getting aligned quicker. If you know what to do it's a lot easier, or you have a lot better chance of doing it than if you're struggling getting out of the huddle and understanding what route you have. They're playing with a knowledge of the offense and I think you can see that a little bit in their play."

Granted, the play to which Payton references is in practice and OTAs. But in the portion of the workouts that are viewable by media, Jones and Coleman have displayed an impressive catch radius – passes don't have to be perfect, each has the wingspan to go up and over defensive backs – and the ability to separate after the catch.

The yearlong exposure to the playbook has given each a comfort zone, allowing them to play freer and faster.

"It's like a boost from 0 to 100," Jones said. "It happened fast. I have a better understanding of the game, of the offense, just being able to play faster, just making me a better receiver."

Said safety Kenny Vaccaro: "Seantavious Jones and Coleman are doing a great job. They've made a lot of progress since last season. They're making great catches, finishing the play – I like that. They're going to be good for us.

"That's going to happen from Year 1 to 2 – they came in as undrafted guys, kind of learning the game and learning the offense. Once you get comfortable, you can make those types of plays because they've got that ability."

The potential easily was identifiable. The nurturing of it has helped create a pair of players the Saints believe are ready to produce.

"They like where I ended the season and they wanted me to get a little bit stronger, a little more flexible, and just keep studying," Coleman said.

"It's a lot of opportunity out there, plays to be made, so I do think I can step in and fill that gap."

If so, they'll be the latest in a line of Saints players who fall into the we-don't-care-where-they-come-from mantra that the coaching staff adheres to.

"It's very difficult, because people really don't expect you to make the plays that others can, because you came from a smaller school or you're undrafted," Jones said. "But you just have to come out and show them different."

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