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Coleman working hard to help Lions' defense

Cornerback Justin Coleman is no stranger to trying to defend Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in practice.

Coleman spent his first two seasons in the NFL with the Patriots in 2015 and 2016.

“I don’t really think it’s changed much because he hasn’t changed much,” Coleman said of practicing against Brady after Tuesday’s Lions-Patriots joint practice in Allen Park.

“He’s going to always be himself.”

The one thing Coleman says has changed, however, is his mentality towards the matchup, and the greater confidence he has in his own abilities after he established himself as one of the best nickel cornerbacks in the NFL the last two seasons playing in Seattle.

“I feel like I’m a step forward from what I used to be,” Coleman said. “I’m just here to do what I can to help this defense.”

Coleman signed with the Lions this offseason to primarily be their slot cornerback. Opposing quarterbacks had a 82.5 passer rating throwing his way last season, which was the seventh lowest rating among all slot cornerbacks, per Pro Football Focus statistics.

To put that in a little bit of perspective, Nevin Lawson played the most slot cornerback snaps for the Lions last season. Opponents had a 113.8 passer rating on him.

Playing five defensive backs on the field is pretty common in head coach Matt Patricia’s defense. In fact, NFL teams were in sub packages roughly 86 percent of the time on defense last season. Coleman is expected to play a big role in Detroit, and the Lions need that part of their defense to be much better in 2019.

“I’m just doing my best to pick up everything, learn the plays and make plays for the team,” Coleman said. “I mean, there’s not too much I need to do besides my job.”

View photos from Day 11 of Detroit Lions Training Camp presented by Rocket Mortgage.

That’s the kind of no nonsense, lunch pail mentality that made Coleman an early free-agent target for the Lions.

“I think for Justin, a guy we’re real familiar with, he’s out competing every day, but he’s just like everyone else he has to come out and work hard and try to get acclimated back to the defense and understand what we’re trying to do and he’s doing a great job of it,” Patricia said.

“He’s a tough guy. He competes every single day.”

Coleman is one of several new players on defense, along with Trey Flowers, Mike Daniels and Rashaan Melvin, that’s hoping to help make a good Lions' defense even better in 2019.

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