Carolina Panthers safeties Kurt Coleman and Tre Boston want to build something of their own this season.
In the past two months, Carolina has let go of two starters, drafted three young guys and moved another player to a new position.
But Coleman and Boston remain at safety, ready to make their mark for the Panthers.
“I love those guys, and they were a great piece to what we did last year and what we built,” Coleman said Tuesday at organized team activities. “This is a new year. It’s exciting because we get to build our own legacy, so to speak.
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“So the year of 2016-2017, what will our dash say?”
That dash represents the play that will go between 2016 and 2017. The youth in the secondary means Coleman and Boston will have a lot to do with that dash.
Boston is getting a look at starting free safety; Coleman is starting at strong safety. Last year Coleman played free and Roman Harper played strong, but the Panthers decided not to re-sign Harper in free agency.
That opened the door for Boston, a fourth-round pick in 2014, to retake the starting position he had going into last year’s training camp.
Boston admits he was overconfident as he went into camp. He had a solid rookie season and was at the top of the depth chart ahead of Coleman, a free-agent acquisition.
“Last OTAs I didn’t work as hard as I should have,” Boston said. “I think coming off a rookie season I think I kind of got comfortable. Kurt came in and had a phenomenal training camp. I didn’t have a bad one, even coaches could tell you. I was up there on the production charts. But Kurt played his butt off and he deserved the role.
“That put me in the backseat again learning from the vets. It wasn’t a bad spot but it wasn’t where I would like to be. I’m happy right now to get that shot again.”
A solid backup
Boston is coming off a stellar season as a backup. The Panthers rarely missed a beat when they subbed him in at free safety and moved Coleman to strong to replace the elder Harper. Boston had an interception, sack and fumble recovery in the postseason as a backup.
All that came with cornerback Josh Norman on the field and Harper in the locker room. Now Boston will have to do it without a Pro Bowl corner in front of him or his mentor and friend guiding him on and off the field.
“I think I’ve been led into this role with Uncle Rome and I think it’s my time now,” Boston said. “(Starting) is something I’ve done before, but I just haven’t been able to solidify it. This is my year to make sure that without a doubt that’s my spot.
“And I will make sure that’s known come Week 1.”
Coleman the veteran
For the first time in his seven-year career, Coleman is now the veteran leader in the defensive backfield.
A two-year starter for the Eagles in 2011 and 2012, Coleman came to Carolina last offseason on a two-year deal worth $2.8 million. He took the starting spot away from Boston in training camp and then reinforced it with seven regular-season interceptions.
Coleman knows he’s the guy players – such as the three rookie corners – will look to for veteran leadership.
“It’s just a part of the territory. I’m blessed to be able to play this game as long as I have,” Coleman said. “But it’s a lot of responsibility and I’m excited about that. We have what it takes. I’ve just got to continue helping nurture and grow.”
Driving the bus
So now it’s on Coleman and Boston to drive the bus from the back, as defensive backs coach Steve Wilks likes to say.
“I’m excited with the group of guys we have. We’re eager to learn and get better,” Coleman said. “When you have rookies and guys who haven’t played in this defense, it’s all about building the trust through these OTAs and minicamp.
“It’s the communication and trust building so that when we hit training camp in late July we can hit the ground running.”