New York Post


All-Pro safety struggling to repeat 2016 performanc­e

- hkussoy@ nypost. com By HOWIE KUSSOY

Very easily, the Giants could be facing a sixth straight season without a playoff appearance.

Before the team raised expectatio­ns for this season by winning 11 games and making the postseason last year, the Giants were 3-3, and the lone team in the NFC East without a winning record.

Then, a second-year safety changed the season, influencin­g outcomes every week.

First, Landon Collins, who had recorded one intercepti­on during an uneven rookie season, recorded two picks in a seven-point win over the Rams, returning one for the Giants’ only defensive touchdown all season.

The next game, he picked off Carson Wentz two minutes into the game, sparking a 14-0 Giants lead in the first quarter of their eventual win over the Eagles.

The next week, Collins intercepte­d Andy Dalton in the fourth quarter of a onepoint win over the Bengals, with the safety repeating the feat against Jay Cutler on a potential game-winning drive in the final minutes the following Sunday.

Like that, the Giants were contenders. Like that, Collins was on his way to being named a first-team All-Pro selection.

Entering this season, the 23-year-old was one of the biggest reasons a Super Bowl seemed possible.

“Expectatio­ns were certainly higher,” defensive coordinato­r Steve Spagnuolo said of the safety Thursday.

Collins has been “solid” this season, Spagnuolo said, and leads the team in tackles as he did last season, but the third-year safety has struggled to make the same impact. Last season, Collins recorded five intercepti­ons, four sacks and five stuffs. This year, Collins is still looking for his first tally in each category.

In Sunday’s 25-23 l oss to the Buccaneers, Collins missed two tackles, and allowed a 58-yard touchdown to backup tight end O.J. Howard, before getting beat by Cameron Brate for a 26-yard catch on Tampa Bay’s game-winning drive.

“I think he and I both want him to be better,” Spagnuolo said. “I think he will be better. He works at it every day. He doesn’t flinch in terms of passion and hunger and how he works at it. The one thing I do talk to him about is, ‘ Don’t press. Let the game come to you.’ And, there might have been a little bit of that early.” There was. Collins said he doesn’t believe t he heightened expectatio­ns have affected his play, but the safety acknowledg­ed he has been overeager to spark the team, as he did so often last sea

son. “The f i rst two g a mes, I was pressing it, now I’m getting back to the point of like last year, where I let the game come to me, and not press anymore and just do my job,” Collins said. “If I do my job, good things are gonna happen. We need plays. We need enthusiasm. We need that spark.

“I ’ ve kept my head focused on the task at hand and have not let the outside stuff affect me.”

The expectatio­ns for the Giants have shifted, but Collins said he believes there is still time for him to change t he way t he season looks — again.

“We’re not worried about being 0- 4. It’s all this game,” Collins said. “You just gotta let it come naturally and l et the game come to you, and just play ball.

“We’re j ust not playing Giants ball yet. We’re gonna get to it t his week.”

 ??  ?? Landon Collins
Landon Collins

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