Gi­ants safety Collins mak­ing mark on de­fense

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Tom Cana­van

New York Gi­ants safety Lan­don Collins has be­come one of those play­ers that op­pos­ing of­fenses can’t over­look. Collins is the Gi­ants’ play­maker on de­fense, and much more.

EAST RUTHER­FORD, N.J. » New York Gi­ants safety Lan­don Collins has be­come one of those play­ers that op­pos­ing of­fenses can’t over­look.

Collins is the Gi­ants’ play­maker on de­fense, and much more.

Play­ing on a team that has boasted such Hall of Famers as Lawrence Tay­lor, Harry Car­son and Michael Stra­han, the sec­ondyear pro from Alabama has be­come the first Gi­ant to win con­fer­ence player of the week awards in con­sec­u­tive games.

Two weeks ago, he was rec­og­nized for in­ter­cept­ing two passes against the Rams in Lon­don, with one re­sult­ing in an in­cred­i­ble re­turn for a touch­down.

Af­ter the bye week, Collins came back against the Ea­gles this past week­end with 12 tack­les, and his in­ter­cep­tion on the open­ing se­ries set up the first of four Eli Man­ning touch­down passes.

“He’s a beast,” said fel­low safety Andrew Adams, who then re­peated the state­ment for em­pha­sis. “He is fly­ing around, mak­ing plays, hit­ting peo­ple. It’s what you need from a safety.”

Collins is a big rea­son the Gi­ants (5-3) are off to their best start since 2012, when they were 6-2 at the half­way point. He leads the team in tack­les (69), sacks (3) and in­ter­cep­tions (3), the only player in the NFL to lead his team in all three cat­e­gories this sea­son.

No Gi­ant has led the team in both sacks and in­ter­cep­tions in a full sea­son since sacks be­came an of­fi­cial statis­tic in 1982. The last NFL player to do it was Pitts­burgh’s Lawrence Tim­mons in 2012 (3 in­ter­cep­tions, 6 sacks).

This sea­son, Yan­nick Ngak­oue leads the Jack­sonville Jaguars in both cat­e­gories (4 sacks, one of three play­ers with one in­ter­cep­tion).

Collins was un­aware of the statis­tics.

“I’m just out there play­ing ball, do­ing what is best for the de­fense,” he said as the team started pre­par­ing for Mon­day night’s game against the Cincin­nati Ben­gals (3-4-1). “I’m just try­ing to help in any way pos­si­ble.”

Collins has come a long way this sea­son.

The Gi­ants moved up in the draft last year to grab him with the first pick of the sec­ond round. He be­came an in­stant starter on a unit that blew six leads ei­ther late in the fourth quar­ter or in over­time.

For a kid who came into the NFL with a chip on his shoul­der af­ter be­ing passed over in the first round, it was a hum­bling ex­pe­ri­ence. So he worked harder in the off­sea­son, and it has paid off.

“As I kept on work­ing, kept on un­der­stand­ing the de­fense and work­ing at my craft, I def­i­nitely knew I was go­ing to get to this point sooner than later,” said Collins, who grew up mod­el­ing his game af­ter the late Sean Tay­lor.

Collins can’t get enough of foot­ball. When he is not lift­ing, he ei­ther is in the film room or study­ing op­pos­ing of­fenses.

On the open­ing drive against the Ea­gles, he rec­og­nized the route con­cept on the pass to Nel­son Agholor from some­thing the Ea­gles did the week be­fore. He kept his lever­age and in­ter­cepted the over­thrown pass by Car­son Wentz.

He re­mem­bered to credit end Olivier Ver­non for putting pres­sure on Wentz.

“It al­ways starts with the D-line,” said Collins who had only one in­ter­cep­tion in his first 22 games. “If they get pres­sure, a push back there, it’s go­ing to be a tackle for a loss or a play that gives us an in­ter­cep­tion. When they get go­ing, we all get go­ing.”

Collins is the first to win de­fen­sive player of the week awards in con­sec­u­tive games since Chicago cor­ner­back Charles Till­man in 2012, and the first safety since Pitts­burgh’s Troy Po­la­malu in 2010.

The New Or­leans na­tive is the first Gi­ants de­fen­sive player to win two player of the week awards in a sea­son since safety Ste­vie Brown in 2012. Quar­ter­back Eli Man­ning won the of­fen­sive award twice in 2015.

Man­ning said he saw how tal­ented Collins was last sea­son.

“The first year you come in, there’s a lot go­ing on,” Man­ning said. “NFL de­fense is a lot more com­plex. De­fense is thrown at you. You’re maybe think­ing a lit­tle bit and you might not make the plays that you nor­mally would make.

“Now, you see him fly­ing around and to­tally con­fi­dent in what he’s do­ing. The re­sults show on game day.”

FRANK FRANKLIN II — ASSOCIATED PRESS

Ea­gles run­ning back Ryan Mathews takes hit from Gi­ants strong safety Lan­don Collins dur­ing New York’s vic­tory over Philadel­phia.

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