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Safety Kurt Coleman gives New Orleans Saints a new chess piece

Don't box in​ Kurt Coleman.

Don't call him a "free" or "strong" safety, or presuppose he enjoys being in the box on defense rather than playing center field, or leap to the conclusion that he's more of a thumper than a ballhawk.

Just let the New Orleans Saints' free agent signee play.

"Playing football is where I'm comfortable," Coleman said. "I've played under, I think, nine or 10 different defensive coordinators (in eight previous NFL seasons). So being able to have that wealth of knowledge – you have to be versatile whenever you go to different schemes.

"I've played both positions and I've done very well at both positions. And I think within this defense, it allows two safeties, three safeties, sometimes four safeties on the field at a time. So it creates havoc for the opposing team, and I think that's the great thing about this defense is, it's not just a, 'This is the set defense.'

"We bring from a lot of different formations, a lot of different personnel groupings, and we change things up often. And it allows me to kind of play. The best thing about what I'm able to do is be a play-maker.

"Don't just put me in one spot and tell me, 'Have fun there.' I like to move around, I like to have fun, I like to be able to see the ball, go get the ball and sometimes I like to play deep. So this defense allows me to do that, but really, it just allows me to play freely along with the other guys."

Coleman's production has shown that he can play well with others.

Twenty-one career interceptions (including seven, one short of the NFL lead, in 2015), 36 passes defensed, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, 519 tackles and six playoff games (including the Super Bowl as a Carolina Panther in 2015) made Coleman a free agent priority for the Saints.

"(He's) a guy that's won a lot of games," secondary coach Aaron Glenn said. "A guy that's played on a big stage and a guy like that – you take P-Rob (cornerback Patrick Robinson, a former Saint and a free agent signee who won the Super Bowl with Philadelphia last season), too – those type of guys that have played on a big stage that have won a lot of games, they bring the value of winning consistently. Because they've both done it.

"He's a major communicator. He wants to know every little detail there is as far as coverage. We do some things that are a little different than what he has done in Carolina, but ball is ball to him. He can adapt and he can learn, so he's actually more than we anticipated and we're happy to have him.

"He's done it all, and we don't want to limit him. We don't want to limit him to just playing one spot. True enough, he's a banger. He's a tough guy, so playing in the box is something he's used to doing. But we also want to give Marcus (Williams) those opportunities to get down there and play in the box, just be a versatile safety secondary, so they don't know which guys are coming down. I think he gives us that."

He gives New Orleans that, and more.

"He's all business," defensive coordinator Dennis Allen said. "He is a football guy. And I think any time you have an opportunity to bring those type of people into your building, it makes everybody else around them better. He's always thinking football, he's always talking football. He's a smart, heady football player that understands the game and I think he has been good for our younger players."

Coleman seamlessly has assumed a leadership role. His fit has been natural, and it's one that he hopes will help make the Saints' secondary the best in the league.

"These guys can play," he said. "And I think the great thing about it is, they're super competitive. And the one thing that I'm here to be able to do is help continue to foster that and grow these guys.

"I want them to reach their full potential. I don't want them to think that just because we did something good, that's good enough. Because if there's something better than good enough, let's go reach that surface.

"And I think this team, and especially the defensive back group, if we continue to nail down the details of which we go about our business every single day, I expect us to be the No. 1 group in the NFL. Now, is it going to be a work in progress? Absolutely. But I believe that with the talent and the preparation that we put in every single day, we have the ability to get there. We'll see once it comes game time, but I believe everything's right here that we need to go out and get it done."

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