YEARS IN THE NFL: Rookie
ACQUIRED: Undrafted free agent
HIGHLIGHTS: Coley made 32 starts in four seasons with the Cavaliers, and he broke out with a senior season notable for his ability to get to the quarterback on the blitz. As a senior, Coley racked up 76 tackles, eight sacks, two forced fumbles and six passes defended. Initially unsigned after the first run on undrafted free agents, Coley got a chance to try out at the Saints’ rookie minicamp and impressed the brass enough to earn a full shot in training camp.
STRENGTHS: Coley runs well, better than almost any other linebacker on the roster. From the weakside spot, he has the speed to get to the sideline on perimeter runs, and once he’s there, he times tackles well, which should help him be a good tackler. In addition, Coley reads plays well. On one play during Friday’s scrimmage, Coley sniffed out one of the Saints’ trademark bootlegs and took away the fullback coming out of the backfield, forcing the quarterback to pull the ball down and run for minimal yardage.
Must continue to: Prove he can handle blocks from offensive linemen and disengage. Coley’s at his best as a run-and-chase linebacker, which is good if the defensive line keeps him clean, but he also has to prove he can plug a hole when needed. Now that the preseason games are finally in sight, Coley will also get a chance to prove himself as a tackler — a sure indicator of whether or not a linebackrer can play in this league — and he must keep the missed tackles to a minimum.
PROJECTION: Coley faces a stacked depth chart at linebacker, given that the top three inside spots are already locked down with Stephone Anthony, David Hawthorne and Dannell Ellerbe. That likely leaves one spot at either middle or weakside linebacker, and the Saints still have veteran Ramon Humber, who provides experienced depth and solid special teams play. Given the experience at linebacker, Coley’s best chance might be to impress in preseason games and take aim for a practice squad spot.