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Maybe it was because he was labeled as a “box safety” by numerous NFL draft analysts. Whatever the reason, somehow former Alabama safety Landon Collins—who was projected as the top safety in this year's draft class and a first-round pick by Lance Zierlein of NFL.com—slid down to the second round.


From there, the New York Giants didn’t bat an eye, shipping their second-round pick, fourth-round pick and one of two seventh-round picks to Tennessee in order to move up seven spots to get Collins at the top of the second round (33rd overall). "When you move up to that spot, you have buddies around the National Football League, but they’re not buddy enough to let you come up there for free,” Giants general manager Jerry Reese said. “It’s a premium spot when you’re picking first in the second round, so you’ve got to pay to go up there and secure a guy. We paid a fair price for him—very fair.” Collins’ slide is perhaps most baffling to Nick Saban, his former college coach who admitted in an interview with SiriusXM NFL Radio that he was perplexed to see his former student-athlete fall out of the first round. "He's a fine person. He’s got no character issues. He's played on some really good defensive teams and has been a great leader, so I don't get it,” Saban said. Collins is a versatile playmaker who told reporters that he models his game after the late Sean Taylor, a hard-hitting, fearless and no-nonsense force who brought swagger as well as attitude to the University of Miami and then later to the Washington Redskins.


That’s what Collins hopes to contribute to a Giants defense that finished 29th overall (375.8 yards/game), 30th against the run (135.1 yards/game) and 17th against the pass (240.6 yards/game) in 2014. Collins certainly has the credentials to help correct some of those deficiencies. While the competition level between college—even if it’s a top program—and the NFL is different, let’s see how Collins performed last year and how his numbers might help get the new Giants defense off on the right track.


Run Defense


Since Collins is so widely thought of as a box safety—perhaps due to his 6’0”, 228-pound size—let’s first look at his production in run support on plays eight yards or closer to the line of scrimmage.


According to Pro Football Focus, Collins was the 10th-best safety last year on plays where the ball-carrier was tackled within eight yards of the line of scrimmage, logging 16 tackles (13 solo) and just one missed tackle in 114 run-game snaps.


Nine of Collins’ tackles were stops for zero or negative yardage, as he finished with a 7.9 run-stop percentage.

Again, acknowledging that college and the pro levels are different brands of competition, Collins’ 7.9 run-stop percentage topped the overall production of all of the Giants safeties last year.


In the missed tackles department, Stevie Brown, Antrel Rolle and Quintin Demps—all of whom logged at least 200 run-game snaps—combined for six missed tackles within eight yards of the line of scrimmage, five of those by Rolle and the other by Demps. How bad was it for the Giants safeties, who are supposed to be among the last line of defense?

According to the Giants’ year-end stat package. New York allowed 68 runs of 10-plus yards, 19 of those going for 20-plus yards. Four of those big-play runs resulted in touchdowns, and all four were the result of a missed tackle.


Pass Coverage


With the Giants believed to be planning to use their safeties interchangeably, Collins is sure to draw some assignments in coverage. According to Rick Drummond of Pro Football Focus, Collins needs to focus on improving the coverage part of his game:


While he is sure and comfortable coming down to meet receivers catching the ball in front of him (often with a thump), when put in situations where he needs to turn and run or otherwise chase a route, the hitch in his athleticism crops up. He’s not smooth in that transition and his angles need to improve as he doesn’t seem to embrace the top-down safety mentality, often coming at routes in a flat, cross-field path. For what it’s worth, at the combine his 40 time was among the best at the position while his 3-cone and short shuttle were among the worst. Drummond goes on to note that Collins allowed 37 completions on 58 pass targets, putting him among the most targeted safeties in this class with the most pass completions allowed.


That’s the bad news.


The good news is that Collins only gave up 8.3 yards per reception, which had him among the 10 best safeties.

How does all that stack up to what the Giants safeties allowed last year?

Pretty well, actually. No Giants safety allowed fewer than 10 yards per reception in 2014 (minimum 300 coverage snaps).

By year’s end, New York had allowed 59 passes of 10-plus yards, 15 of which were touchdowns, and 12 of which were 20 yards or more.


Leadership


It’s extremely rare that the moment a rookie first sets foot into a NFL locker room, he becomes an instant leader both on and off the field.

“A rookie comes in here and he has a lot of work to do before he gets to that,” head coach Tom Coughlin told reporters.

While it’s unlikely that Collins will emerge as a defensive captain this year—inside linebacker Jon Beason figures to be re-elected to that role if he makes it through training camp—it probably won’t be long before Collins starts drawing some of the votes from his teammates.

“You have to prove it,” Coughlin said. “You do it by how hard you work and you lead from the front—first in line [and so on]. If he does that on the field, he will establish a platform and that platform can be developed going forward.” That would be a great thing for a Giants defense that’s in transition. Over the last two seasons, the Giants have lost defensive captains Justin Tuck and Rolle. Again, while Beason figures to earn that captain role from his teammates, it remains to be seen what New York does as far as a backup plan just in case it doesn't have Beason for whatever reason as the season wears on. To his credit, Collins is taking it one step at a time. He knows that his first objective is to settle in with his new team and show it that he was indeed worth the price paid to get him. He will probably start that process off by seeing most of his initial work at strong safety, a position previously held by Rolle. Collins, though, isn’t intimidated by the thought of having to replace Rolle—or anyone for that matter.

“I came into a lot of places. I came from Dutchtown. I came in right after Eric Reid. Going into Alabama, I came in after Mark Barron and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Vinnie Sunseri. I had plenty of big shoes to fill, so I’m going to definitely fill those shoes and keep it going,” he told reporters. If he can improve “it” as his college production indicates is a very realistic possibility, even better as far as the Giants are concerned.
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Thanks for the post.

 

I think this was the best pick of the draft for Reese....got a legit starting safety with the skillset to play weakside linebacker. And I think his coverage skills will hold up.

 

Giants run defense - specifically outside contain - was atrocious last season, and Collins is a huge long term upgrade.

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