Landon Collins
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

One of the key elements that many felt had been missing in the New York Giants locker room over the last several seasons was a strong vocal presence. Luckily, they found it this year.

Quarterback Eli Manning leads the New York Giants by example with his play and how he carries himself, but he’s never had a strong, vocal presence. In fact, a case can be made that the Giants haven’t had a strong vocal presence since Justin Tuck.

However, throughout the course of last season, Landon Collins began to emerge as that vocal presence both on and off the field.

It’s important that the vocal leader in the locker room is also one of your best players and that’s exactly what Collins is.

In 2016, he led the Giants in tackles with 125, caught five interceptions and recorded four sacks on his way to being named to his first Pro Bowl. Collins was so good that year that many felt he, instead of Khalil Mack, should have been named Defensive Player of the Year.

Last season, despite dealing with nagging injuries for most of the year and missing the season finale due to a fractured forearm, he once again led the team in tackles with 104 and was named to his second Pro Bowl—the lone Giant to receive the honor.

In addition to leading on the field with his play, Collins was also quick to come to his teammates’ defense, like in the preseason when Odell Beckham Jr., was undercut by Browns cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun and suffered a sprained ankle. Shortly thereafter, Collins was seen jawing at Calhoun and the Browns sideline for what he felt was a dirty hit.

He was always there to go to bat for his teammates. Then there was the situation between him and cornerback Eli Apple.

Apple was dealing with personal and professional issues throughout the season. At one point, he threatened to walk out of a film session because he didn’t like how he was being criticized by coaches for his effort on the field. Collins publicly said that he spoke to Apple and gave him advice and support. Apple denied this claim.

Just days later, when doing an interview with Bob Wischusen on ESPN radio, he referred to Apple as a cancer.

“There’s only just one corner that … needs to grow, and we all know who that is,” said Collins, one of the more popular players in the locker room. “That would be the only person I would change out of our secondary group. Besides, the other two guys, [Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie] and [Janoris Jenkins], I love those two guys. They play hard. They love what they do.

“But that first pick … he’s a cancer.” Collins said

People know what type of person Collins is, and that his comments didn’t have any malicious intent. Perhaps this was Collins’ way of showing tough love and that Apple would see the error of his ways.

It’s been rumored that Apple doesn’t have many friends in the locker room and that Collins’ comments were echoing exactly what they were feeling. Maybe those remarks and an offseason to think about things will bring a change in Apple’s play and attitude.

Collins’ leadership stretches far beyond that. Collins is a friend to the neighborhood, contributing to the community and people who are in need. In June he and Joe Ruback, better known as “License Plate Guy,” will host the 2nd Annual Landon Collins Celebrity softball game. Last year the event raised $30,000 for the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund which helps children battling cancer.

In just three seasons with Big Blue, Collins has shown that he’s one of the best players in the league both on and off the field, and is motivated to get the Giants back to contender status.

He’s on the path to becoming the next great vocal leader, just like Michael Strahan and Justin Tuck before him. So don’t be surprised if new head coach Pat Shurmur makes Collins one of the captains next season. He deserves it.

Jason's first love was football while growing up in northern New Jersey. For the past three years, he has covered the New York Giants, as well as several boxing events along the East Coast.