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Four Players The New York Giants Need To See Step Up In 2016

Landon Collins

In very similar fashion to Flowers, Landon Collins was a rookie pressed into a starting role well before he was ready. Collins excelled in college playing close to the line of scrimmage as a “box safety” where he can help stop the run and attack the ball. But when he was asked to play the “center field” role in the back of the defense, he struggled. And with paper-thin depth at safety heading into the season, the second round pick was forced into a bigger role than the team would have liked— many times at the position where he struggled in college.

Due to the rash of season-ending injuries at the free safety position, the Giants did not have a true free safety on the roster. Despite the signings of veteran stopgaps Brandon Meriweather and Craig Dahl, Landon Collins was repeatedly forced to play the “center field” role of which his struggles were well documented at the University of Alabama. And as expected, he did not fare well.

He had a hard time taking proper angles to the ball in flight. His lack of top tier speed hurt him against NFL wide receivers, and allowed several completions over the middle. He also displayed extremely poor hands—recording only a single interception— and dropped a fair share of catchable balls, most notably a pass thrown by Tom Brady that would have secured a Giants victory over the heavily favored Patriots.

But despite these struggles from Collins, he did perform well against the run. He recorded 112 combined tackles (which led the Giants and all rookies), logged seven run stuffs and forced a fumble. He was always active near the line of scrimmage and frequently made plays that prevented big gains. Not to mention, he started all 16 games and played more than 90% of all defensive snaps—a huge workload to put on a rookie. When Collins was used to his strengths, he performed. When he was not, he faltered.

With the addition of third round pick Darian Thompson and the bevy of free safeties returning from injury competing for the starting spot, the Giants will look to play Collins to his skillset as a box safety where he is best suited. However, there will be times where Collins is forced to make plays in coverage and in deep zone. The Giants hope that Collins will be a better player in 2016 because of his struggles in 2015. For this to happen, he will need to improve upon his poor play in coverage and record some of the interceptions he was not able to come down with in his rookie campaign.