New York Giants safety Landon Collins was arguably the breakout player of the year in the NFL in 2016. He went from a fairly forgettable rookie season to being an All-Pro in his second year. Collins was excellent. Now will he maintain that level of play or will he regress?
For all his great plays last year, Collins did make some mistakes. In the Pittsburgh Steelers game, he was beat clean in man coverage against a tight end and gave up a touchdown. In the second Cowboys game, it seemed Collins was involved in the broken coverage that led to Dallas’ only touchdown. These mistakes don’t take anything away from Collins’ stellar season. After all, his four-game interception streak and his overall play were major reasons for the Giants’ mid-season winning streak. And who could forget his incredible pick-six against the Rams in London? However, the minor mistakes show that there is always room for improvement.
Collins deserved the recognition he got last year. Anyone who watched the Giants saw what a leader he was on defense. Collins’ play resembled that of Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor. He was good in coverage but a monster in the box, making hard hits. One could argue that Collins was even better in coverage last year than Chancellor ever was during his career.
If Collins improves on his 2016, or at the very least doesn’t regress, can he be the best safety in the league in 2017?
There are a lot of talented safeties in the NFL right now. Earl Thomas, Eric Berry, Harrison Smith, and Eric Weddle are all veterans that were as good as Collins last year. Many of these players surpass Collins in coverage ability but don’t have the hard-hitting power he does.
It is also difficult to compare Collins to other top safeties because of how the Giants use him. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo likes to keep his man close to the line of scrimmage, allow him to blitz, and let him make big plays. He worked well in that role last year, and with the defensive talent surrounding him, there’s no reason Collins can’t do that again this year.
It’s still much too early to make a declaration, but Landon Collins has a chance to leave a great legacy. He is a play-making safety in an era when the league has made it easier to pass. Collins can stop the run, he can tackle, he can force fumbles, he can pressure the quarterback, and he can intercept the ball. He is a clutch player that seems to be at his best when it matters most. Collins can very well be the best safety in the league this coming season. If he can fix some of his minor coverage issues, I believe he will be.