Landon Collins' numbers are down from 2016, but that doesn't mean he isn't the same dominant defensive player:
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Landon Collins is not the dominant player he was in his 2016 All-Pro season.
Who said so?
"Not at all," Collins said this week. "I don't have any sacks, I got a few pressures. I got a couple turnovers (an interception and a fumble recovery), but not as dominant at all."
The numbers back him up. Through seven games a year ago, Collins led the Giants with 57 tackles (49 solo), including four for losses. He also had 2.0 sacks, two interceptions and five passes defensed.
As the Giants today conclude preparations for their game tomorrow against the Los Angeles Rams, Collins is second on the team with 41 tackles (32 solo), none behind the line of scrimmage. He has yet to register a sack, and has one interception and four passes defensed. Collins does have both a forced fumble and a fumble recovery, neither of which he had this time last year.
The statistical decline is not necessarily an indication Collins isn't playing as well. His stellar start-to-finish performance in 2016 made opposing teams realize they have to pay more attention to him and devise schemes to make him less of a factor.
"I've been a person on the field that they have to respect, and that's probably the biggest thing," Collins said. "But at the same time, I have to figure out ways to get around it, because they're sliding line protections to me, they're keeping me as a part of their run schemes. Coaches that I know from other teams told me I'm a big part of trying to stop getting their run game going."
Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said there's "no question" teams facing the Giants are more cognizant of where Collins is, and are working harder to diminish his impact.
"They account for him in the run, because they feel like it could be a problem that he might come in off the edge and make a play behind the line of scrimmage, which he did a lot last year," Spagnuolo said. "And I think they're fully aware of him on third down situations where he might be pressuring."
Spagnuolo emphasized that instead of getting frustrated, Collins must understand that the increased attention toward him can help others on the defense. And it doesn't preclude him from being productive and disruptive.
"It's part of dealing with the fact that you're a good player," Spagnuolo said. "Teams aren't going to let good players beat them, so they account for him. What he has to do is understand that it's going to benefit somebody else down the road. It's like in basketball, when you double a real good scorer, it's got to open up for somebody else. So, hopefully, we get some things opened because people are concentrating on him quite a bit. I hope it works out that way."
So, of course, does Collins, but he can't escape the fact that opposing offenses are going out of their way to avoid him.
"At the line, they kind of check with me," Collins said. "You (a play-caller) can talk to the quarterback down to 15 seconds (remaining on the play clock). If the offensive coordinator sees something or if the head coach sees something, they can say something to the quarterback in time and by that time, it's kind of like, 'What can you do now, you know? You try to disguise it as much as possible. There's only so much you can disguise.
"(I) definitely take that as a sign of respect. At the same time, I'm getting mad, because I'm not able to help the team as much as I did last year."
Collins has still made his presence felt. He had nine tackles (six solo) against Philadelphia, and eight unassisted stops vs. the Chargers. In Denver, he intercepted a Trevor Siemian pass at the Giants' 14-yard, stopping a potential Broncos scoring drive. A week later, his 32-yard fumble return set up the Giants' only touchdown against Seattle.
"I'm not frustrated that I'm not making the plays like the interceptions and stuff." Collins said. "It's just more of them taking me out of my game. What's bothering me most is just trying to figure out what I need to do to get back to that level and that standard. I did it the past couple games. Now it's time to get these sacks back up."
Collins believes if he makes more big plays, the rest of the defense will follow.
"(The fumble return) was exhilarating and it was fun," he said. "I feel like once the guys see me with the ball in my hands, they are like, 'Oh yeah, we're good.' It was a great feeling.
"I made some key plays last year (like an interception return touchdown vs. the Rams) and we kind of just fed off of one another. Every time I made a play, Snacks (Damon Harrison) was like, 'I got to make a play,' and then Snacks made a play. Then JPP (Jason Pierre-Paul) has to make a play. We kind of fed off of one another. I started the boat and I feel like I need to continue doing that, and figure out ways to do that."
If he does, it can only help a Giants team that very much needs a victory.
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