Breakout or breakdown? Coby Fleener’s struggles continue

Authored by Stew Blake on Aug 28, 2013

With only one incredibly boring week of preseason football left, the start of the regular season marks the beginning of a fresh slate for players around the league.
If a player feels that he needs to reintroduce himself to the league, now is the time.
For Colts tight end Coby Fleener, a 2012 second-round selection, that’s exactly what this year needs to be.
As a rookie, Fleener not only severely underperformed, but he simply wasn’t able to stay healthy. This year, things seemed to be changing for the sophomore. Coming into camp, Fleener was highlighted as a guy on the verge of breaking out.
And after a very strong training camp, Fleener did indeed look to be primed for a huge second year in a tight-end heavy Pep Hamilton offense.
All throughout training camp, reports were flowing in daily regarding Fleener’s progression. He looked like a guy that had turned a corner and would take that next step as a pro. However, even with his impressive training camp, Fleener managed to enter the preseason looking less like a guy that had turned a corner and more like the same struggling rookie from last year.
I realize that many can (and will) make the argument that the preseason is just that – the preseason. However, most know the preseason isn’t absolutely worthless. Ultimately, it’s there to be the indicator of what needs to improve and what has improved, and so far, Fleener needs to improve.
Fleener may have all of the natural talent in the world, but if the talent doesn’t flow once the bright lights come on and his body breaks down, it’s a wrap. As of today, that’s been the story with Fleener. He’s not only looked fragile when taking hits (already suffered a concussion this year), but in the first two games alone, he had multiple drops and lost a drive-killing fumble, never redeeming himself before being taken out.
For a guy that should undoubtedly be one of the main cogs in a booming offense, it’s hard to watch him struggle like this.
Is it mental? Is it physical vulnerability? Is it fear?
Fleener would likely just shrug it off as preseason learning experiences that are bound to change once it matters, but we can only go off the evidence we’ve been given. And during his career thus far, the evidence of him not living up to expectations is starting to gather a nice pile.
I want Fleener to be the next Jimmy Graham so badly, but with every poor performance he puts forth, you start to wonder whether Fleener is merely a guy that looks good in practice, yet will have a short, injury-plagued career.
As far as talent is concerned, the route running is there. The mental digestion of the game is there. The guy is very smart. The hands, however, are not.
When Dallas Clark was shredding defenses during his career as a Colt, not many noticed that he was prone to drops. Why? Well, he made up for the mistakes with so many other incredible catches.
For Fleener, the constant mistakes have come to the forefront because there has been nothing else to counter them.
Yes, it’s only the preseason and Fleener could have an All-Pro year that makes him a household name, but the clock is ticking on the Stanford product’s development.
What will be his story after this year?
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