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In preseason opener, Landon Collins picks up where he left off

Posted Aug 12, 2017

Safety Landon Collins led the Giants in tackles in the team's preseason opener vs. the Steelers: 


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.  – In many ways, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 20-12 victory Friday night in MetLife Stadium looked like a typical opening preseason game from a Giants’ perspective.

Josh Johnson started at quarterback in place of Eli Manning. Odell Beckham, Jr., Jason Pierre-Paul and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie are all healthy, but didn’t play. Two players, Aldrick Rosas and Mike Nugent, split the kicking duties.

>> WATCH GIANTS VS. STEELERS HIGHLIGHTS

But in one respect, the game was just like any regular-season contest the Giants played the previous two seasons: safety Landon Collins was involved in more tackles than anyone and seemingly the best player on the field (in the limited time he was actually on the field).

Collins, coming off a season in which he was selected a first-team All-Pro, played as if he hadn’t taken an eight-month break. He made tackles on the game’s first two plays and finished with a team-high five stops (four solo), despite participating in only 11 plays.

“Anytime I touch the field, I try and do what I can with any amount of plays that I have,” Collins said. “That’s just me.

“I was surprised they wanted the ball first. I thought they were going to head in and let our offense get going, but they wanted the ball first. I was more excited than anything. I love to touch the field and we have to set the tempo. When the defense touches the field, we get to set the tempo. We had the chance to do that and that’s what we did.”


Collins demonstrated that on the game’s very first snap, when he and defensive end Olivier Vernon stopped running back Fitzgerald Toussaint for a one-yard loss. On the next play, Collins closed quickly and brought down wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster after a four-yard gain.

“I was excited to hit another team,” Collins said. “We can’t tackle at all when we practice against each other. Just to be able to put the pads on and actually lower your level, try and make contact and drive the other person back, it just feels good. It feels awesome.”

Collins played a big part in forcing the Steelers into another three-and-out on their second possession. He ran down Smith-Schuster after a nine-yard run to set up a third-and-one. Collins then helped force a punt when he teamed with defensive tackle Jay Bromley to bring down Toussaint for a one-yard loss.

“He likes to play,” coach Ben McAdoo said. “He likes to play football, he’s always around the ball, he has a nose for the ball, and he’s a hammer when he gets there.”

“Regardless of who gets the first lick, we just want to set the tone,” Collins said. “Set the tone on defense and set the tone of the game. Tell them that we’re here to punch them in the mouth. That’s what we’re trying to do each and every game.”

Pittsburgh’s third possession lasted just one play, as Valentino Blake intercepted a downfield pass by rookie quarterback Joshua Dobbs, who started for the Steelers. That led to the game’s first points, on Aldrick Rosas’ 27-yard field goal.

When Pittsburgh next got the ball, most of the Giants’ starters were on the sideline. But not Collins, who – surprise, surprise – picked up an unassisted tackle on first down.

“Me and coach Spags (defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo) had a little talk. It was just between me and him, and we were trying to do something. It didn’t happen unfortunately, but it was cool.

“We made progress. I mean we got three three-and-outs. Two three-and-outs, an interception and then another three-and-out. It wasn’t surprising, that’s what we expect. We didn’t get a lot of wind, but we were still strong.”

Especially Collins.

*The Giants scored all of their points on field goals – 27 and 52-yarders by Rosas, and 30 and 45-yarders by veteran Mike Nugent. So there wasn’t much separation in the kicking competition.

“I thought both kickers kicked real well,” McAdoo said. “I’ve never been so excited to kick a field goal.”

*While Manning got the night off, the Giants’ other three quarterbacks played. Josh Johnson started and completed five of 10 passes for 31 yards. He was relieved in the second quarter by Geno Smith, who hit 10 of 16 passes for 114 yards but threw an uncontested interception. Rookie Davis Webb played the final two series and completed eight of 16 passes for 67 yards. Johnson and Smith were each sacked three times, and Webb was sacked once.

McAdoo on Johnson: “We were in and out of the huddle. There were sometimes we were at the line of scrimmage for a little bit, but I thought we moved the ball fairly well. We had a couple decent runs there early on, and had the chance to put the ball in the end zone there, but we’ve got to finish through.”

McAdoo on Smith: “He started off with a hot hand, completed the ball, it was unfortunate there on the turnover. I thought he had some good accuracy and managed the game well.”

McAdoo on Webb: “I thought he had some ups and downs in there. He competed nicely, came out of the pocket, had some chances to make some plays, he did fairly well.”

*The Steelers scored 10 points off Giants turnovers. In the second quarter, Donte Deayon muffed a punt and the ball was recovered at the Giants’ 28-yard line by Mike Hilton. On the next play, Hobbs threw a touchdown pass to Cobi Hamilton.

On a first-and-20 in the third quarter, Smith threw to an area unoccupied by any Giants and the ball was picked off by Arthur Moats. “It looked like it was a blind throw,” McAdoo said. Chris Boswell soon put the Steelers ahead with a 37-yard field goal.

*Pittsburgh played without its three most important offensive players. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and wide receiver Antonio Brown were held out by coach Mike Tomlin, and running back Le’Veon Bell has not reported to training camp.

*The Giants announced before the game that Manning, Pierre-Paul, and Rodgers-Cromartie would not play. Odell Beckham, Jr. was also in uniform, but never stepped on the field after warmups. Brandon Marshall played only one series.

This was the ninth preseason game (out of 54) that Manning missed since joining the Giants in 2004, and the sixth resulting from a coach’s decision and not an injury.
 
*Seven Giants players did not suit up because of injury: wide receivers Sterling Shepard (ankle), Tavarres King (ankle), and Kevin Snead (lower body); linebackers Keenan Robinson (concussion) Mark Herzlich (stinger); defensive tackle Robert Thomas (soreness), and safety Ryan Murphy (lower body).

Linebacker J.T. Thomas (knee) and running back Shaun Draughn (ankle) are on the active/physically unable to perform list and are not eligible to play.

*Safety Duke Ihenacho left the game in the second quarter with a hamstring injury.

*The Giants’ game captains were Weston Richburg, Jay Bromley, B.J. Goodson, and Andrew Adams.