Browns rookie wide receiver Corey Coleman received a crash course on Murphy’s law last week during his NFL preseason debut.
He caught a screen pass from quarterback Robert Griffin III for a 9-yard gain late in the first quarter, but the play was negated by receiver Terrelle Pryor’s pass interference penalty.
He was targeted twice in the second quarter but lost his footing and fell both times before the ball arrived. He even lost a shoe the first time.
He squabbled with Pryor during the game.
The first-round draft pick’s statistics in the 30-13 loss to the host Tampa Bay Buccaneers: One start, zero catches, two targets.
Coach Hue Jackson said Coleman pressed, and the 15th overall pick from Baylor University agreed.
He’ll receive another opportunity to work out the kinks when the Browns face the Chicago Bears beginning at 8 p.m. Thursday at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland.
Jackson said the starters will play in the last tune-up for the Sept. 11 regular-season opener, but he didn’t specify for how long. Coleman missed five practices and sat out the first two exhibition games with an injured left hamstring, so there’s a chance he may play a bit more in the finale than the other starters.
“He needs to go out and play the game this week on Thursday and then prepare himself for next week because the intensity and how things are played in the National Football League in the regular season is much different than preseason,” Jackson said. “I think we all respect that. He has some big challenges ahead of himself, but I think he will be up to the task.”
The way Coleman sees it, the challenges lie in catching up with “the rhythm of the game, just getting involved and me and Robert being on the same page.”
Coleman explained he didn’t feel an accumulation of rust from the time he spent rehabilitating the hamstring injury, though he admitted the speed of the game felt fast.
“You’ve got to do small details right, and you’ve got to know what to do at the right time,” he said. “And you’ve got to know a lot as a receiver.”
Coleman’s head wasn’t spinning Aug. 5 when he dominated a scrimmage the Browns held at their headquarters. Despite aggravating his hamstring during the scrimmage, he caught three passes of at least 35 yards and a touchdown.
Griffin remains confident Coleman can perform in similar fashion on game day.
“I think without a doubt he can do that,” Griffin said. “I remember when I was a rookie and I had my first game, I had my first-game jitters, too. People think that preseason games don’t matter, don’t count, but to rookies they matter and they count. So I’m looking forward to getting Corey back out there against Chicago and unleashing him and letting him do some things, so he can feel confident going into the season.
“If he doesn’t catch any balls, it’s just a matter of going through the process of going through another game, preparing, getting ready. And I think that mental side of it will take care of it ’cause Corey’s physical attributes, you see him out at practice, you see him in the game, the guy can flat out run and catch the ball. So it’s just about letting that translate to game day and having him feel comfortable, and we’re working on that process to make sure he does.”
Like Griffin, receiver Josh Gordon is a Baylor product who’s familiar with Coleman’s game. Gordon has no doubt Coleman will be a legitimate playmaker in the NFL once he understands the nuances of playing at the next level.
“He’s trying to adapt to it,” Gordon said. “Practice is a little bit different from the game, and that’s even preseason, so we know the regular season, we told him and he knows, it’ll be even faster than the preseason. So I think mentally his head’s probably trying to put it all together and figure it out, exactly the pace at which it’s played. But he’s got the talent and the ability to do it, and once he hones in on that and digs deep, I think he’ll be a dominant receiver in this league.”
Gordon remembers his first NFL game in 2012 being “scary,” but he soon grew comfortable and confident. The next year, he was an All-Pro selection.
“[It] just comes with experience,” Gordon said. “And this next game hopefully he gets another opportunity, he gets more comfortable, and he gets out there and loosens up, and he’ll be able to fly, I believe.”
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Browns blog at www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/abj.sports.