The Houston Texans claimed an offensive weapon off the waiver wire on Friday in the form of Sammie Coates. The ex-Browns and Steelers WR was dropped from Cleveland’s roster in the wake of their overhaul in the past couple weeks. Now on his third team in four years, Coates may finally find a home where he can have long-term success. Yet to play a full season and only recording 28 catches in his career, the young widout has a lot to prove if he wants to continue playing in the NFL.
Ideally, the addition of Sammie Coates is going to provide depth the Texans need at the wide receiver position. Currently, there are nine wide receivers on the Texans’ pre-camp roster. DAandre Hopkins, Will Fuller V, and recently re-signed Bruce Ellington make up the primary starters. Coates and Braxton Miller will be fighting for the fourth wide receiver role. Braxton has not developed into the dynamic weapon the Texans had hoped for when they selected him in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft, and Coates will be put in a position to fill that void.
Coates is a taller, more physical wide receiver than Miller and he has a knack for eluding defenders once the ball is in his hands. Getting the ball in his hands, however, has been the main issue in Coates’ career. In 2016, his best year in the NFL, he had five dropped passes, which was tied for 16th most that season. His game most resembles that of Cordarrelle Patterson in the fact that they have similar size, weight, limited route trees, highly dynamic speed, and less than expected production.
The best game of Coates’ NFL career came in 2016 against the New York Jets. He had six receptions for 139 yards and two TDs. His burst off the line of scrimmage is his biggest strength and was on display in this game.
On the Steelers’ first possession, Coates motions over to the right side of the field and creates a man-to-man situation with a cornerback playing the deep third of the field. Coates is at his best when he gets a free release so he can build up to his elite speed.
Going against now-Texans CB Marcus Williams (side note: when I realized that this was Marcus Williams, I immediately closed my laptop and stared into the nothingness that was my hopes for this team), Coates forces the defender to flip his hips by getting to the boundary faster than Williams could adjust.
This allowed Coates to break away from Williams and score a 72 yard TD to start off the game. When healthy and given the right situation, Sammie Coates can beat the average NFL defensive back. If he is going to most likely be the WR4 on the Texans’ roster, he will not have to face the best corners in the league.
When the Steelers drafted Ju-Ju Smith-Schuster and got back Martavis Bryant, Coates became an expendable asset. Pittsburgh was so confident in their move that they shipped him off to division rival(ish) Cleveland for a sixth round pick. Coates was drafted in the third round just a couple years before; this trade signaled his drop in value around the league. Coates caught six passes for 70 yards for Cleveland in 2017. He played in 11 games, getting on the field for 92 offensive snaps and 148 special teams plays for the Browns.
Cleveland Browns fans best remember Coates for catching a 3rd-and-9 slant route and then emphatically signaling for a first down when he was still a yard short against the Baltimore Ravens. On the next play, a 4th-and-1, DeShone Kizer tried a QB sneak and again Coates signaled for a first down...even though Kizer was short again.
Looking back at his 28 receptions and skill set, Coates is primarily a straight line sprinter with average hands. He excels at creating separation but does not show much route running acumen. Most of his catches occur when he is either wide open or puts the corner in his back pocket on a “go” route.
Injuries have also curtailed Coates’ career. Finger fractures, hamstring injuries, knee sprains, and a sports hernia have limited his development and playing time. In his last five games with Cleveland, Coates only recorded one catch. Flashes of talent are what is keeping him in the NFL and have attracted the Texans to add him off waivers. With that being said, he should be entering the offseason relatively healthy and able to participate in full team activities.
The Texans do not need Sammie Coates to play 80% of the offensive snaps. When the Texans run four-wide receiver sets, Coates will most likely line up on the same side as DeAndre Hopkins in order to stretch secondary coverage, allowing Hopkins to get open underneath. This combination would work well in stacked wide receiver formations where Hopkins can pace behind Coates and react to what the defense is giving him. I can also see Coates running screen plays and helping out over the middle with the loss/retirement of TE C.J. Fiedorowicz.
Coates’ future on the team will hinge on his ability to attract enough attention from opposing secondaries that Will Fuller V and DeAndre Hopkins will be more open for Deshaun Watson to throw them the ball. He will also be an asset to spell Fuller V to keep him healthy throughout the season. Fresh legs for Will Fuller V may be the most dynamic asset the Texans have with Coates’ arrival.
With the addition of Coates, this may be the most dynamic set of wide receivers the Texans have ever rostered. His presence on the roster will surely be helpful as depth was certainly an issue for the Texans last season. Coates was brought on to be cheap insurance if/when Fuller V goes down or if the Texans end the Braxton Miller experiment. Coates is due $705,000 with a $730,000 salary cap figure this season. Overall, this is not the biggest signing of the offseason, but it is one that signals that new GM Brian Gaine is going to surround Deshaun Watson with as much talent, speed, and options as possible.