During Sunday's practice in Allen Park, Coleman and Agnew found themselves competitors in a one-on-one drill, Coleman the nickel corner and Agnew the slot receiver.
The Lions have sprinkled Agnew into the offense dating back to his rookie season, but the team transitioned him full time to receiver this offseason.
"I think it's pretty amazing that he's capable of doing that. It obviously shows that DB's are the best playmakers on the field," Coleman said with a chuckle of Agnew's transition to receiver. "He brings a great competitive nature to the offense. They already had a really good receiving corps and to add Jamal shows that he's versatile and a very talented guy."
That competitive nature was on full display in that one-on-one rep Sunday. It got pretty physical between Agnew and Coleman with some grabbing by Coleman and some pushing off from Agnew. The ball was incomplete, and Agnew instantly signaled for the flag, to which Coleman responded, "no way," and the two jawed back and forth back to the line of scrimmage.
"It's been fun," Agnew said of the daily competition with Coleman. "I always used to mess with JC like, 'If I played receiver, I'd route you every time.' We kind of banter like that all the time, but I mean JC is a great player and being able to learn from him last year and then being able to compete against him this year has been great and has been helping me a lot with the transition.
"Yeah, we got pretty physical right there (Sunday in practice). I was pushing off a little bit and he was grabbing a little bit, but that's ball. That's the fun part about it."
Agnew seems to be having a lot of fun with the transition to offense, and the fact that he's stood out the first week of camp as a playmaker on offense should make it fun. He caught a diving touchdown in a two-minute period Saturday. Sunday he made a terrific catch in the back of the end zone in a receivers vs. defensive backs goal-line period that drew the praise of quarterback Matthew Stafford.
Lions fans obviously know how dynamic Agnew can be with the ball in his hands as an All-Pro punt and kick-return man. He returned a kickoff for a 100-yard touchdown Week 3 at Philadelphia last season and housed a punt 64 yards for a score at Denver Week 16. Agnew has career totals of three punt return touchdowns and one kickoff return touchdown, a feat only matched by Eddie Drummond in franchise history. Agnew has played in just 32 career games.
Moving him to receiver is a way to get the ball in his hands in space, and Lions coaches think that will lead to some explosive moments for the offense.
"He's handled it really well," Lions head coach Matt Patricia said of Agnew. "I think he's done an outstanding job and honestly it was something that we kind of threw him over there at the end of the year last year a little bit in the wide receiver area and said, 'Hey, what does this look like?'
"We think that he's pretty dynamic when the ball's in his hands, so we were doing some of that last year. But really, I think he's done a really good job of running some of his routes and learning the intricacies of getting off the line of scrimmage. He's been able to kind of get off the line of scrimmage, and I think once he's in open space, you can really see that quickness, that speed and his feel, which is really good."
Agnew said his time playing cornerback has helped him understand defensive concepts and attacking leverage, but he's still learning some of the finer details of playing the receiver position. He joked that hearing Stafford spout off a play call in the huddle the first time got him a little bit.
"But it's been pretty smooth so far," Agnew said. "I'm fortunate to able to learn from guys like Danny (Amendola), Marv (Marvin Jones Jr.), Kenny (Golladay) and them and I've got some great vets in the room. I'm just learning day by day, getting better every day and I'm having fun with it."