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Spagnuolo on Landon Collins: “His aspirations are to be better than what he is”

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Giants’ safety wants to be ‘Lawrence Taylor good’

NFL: Washington Redskins at New York Giants Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The rise of New York Giants’ safety Landon Collins has been well documented. Even the most casual of observers are aware the Alabama product has turned in a Defensive Player of the Year-caliber season. After a tough rookie campaign, Collins grades out as Pro Football Focus’ highest-rated safety in 2016 (92.5) and was selected to his first Pro Bowl.

Collins hopes to wreak as much havoc on opposing offenses as Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor once did for Big Blue. Back in 2015, the thought would’ve been laughable. That goal isn’t so easily dismissed these days. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo weighed in when he spoke with the media Thursday.

“I am glad that that is his goal. I am glad that his aspirations are to be better than what he is. I remember when I used to recruit when I was in college and I used to try and find out the guy you are recruiting, what drove him,” he said. “What is the most important thing to you right now? What are your goals? ... I am glad that the goal is high. Reach for the sky and see what you catch along the way.”

Collins leads New York in tackles (117) and interceptions (5). He’s the first NFL safety with 100+ tackles, and at least five interceptions and three sacks since Rodney Harrison in 2000. He has three DPOYs, two championships and nine more Pro Bowl selections to go before, possibly, being considered Taylor’s equal. Only time will tell whether or not he’ll get there but, thus far, he’s making the most of every week.

Here are more takeaways from Spagnuolo’s media session.

On not looking beyond the Washington Redskins in Week 17...

“The only film that I have watched, the only players that I am looking at are the guys that wear a Washington Redskins jersey and that is it. I have always believed this and I talked to the guys about this the other day, on defense, in this game, our job never changes. It doesn’t matter whether we are up by 50 or behind by 50. It doesn’t matter what the game means, what it doesn’t mean. Our job is to go out there and stop the team that is trying to score, it never changes in the course of the game, during the season, in between games, that is all that we are doing, that is all that we can control and that is what we try to do. ...It is game 16, get to 11-5. There are a lot of reasons. If you aren’t going out there to win a football game, then you probably ought to not go out there.”

On Romeo Okwara...

“Look, I credit Jerry Reese’s staff and the scouting department for discovering Romeo. I am not going to stand here and tell you that I knew much about Romeo before he came out. We knew the name and I think we had done the research as coaches, but they earmarked him, the scouts got him in here and then we take those guys that are free agents and work with them and I think that (Defensive Line Coach) Pat Graham and (Assistant Defensive Line Coach) Jeff Zgonina did a great job with him because he just got better and better and better and if you are going to play in this league, you have to have a little bit of something inside you, a little bit of grit that says, ‘It is not too big for me. I can play in the NFL.’ And I think Romeo has a little bit of that and I think that part of it, too, is guys that he works with in that room – the Harrison’s and the OV’s and the JPP’s and the confidence that they built in him. I think that helped as well.”

On the how the Giants’ defensive turnaround from a season ago...

“The numbers and who was here and who wasn’t there, that gets lost on me because you are in the meeting rooms, you get on the practice field, you are working with the guys you’ve got, you are trusting in your coaching abilities, your assistants, you are putting everything together and you just roll. In this business, you just go. I don’t think about, ‘Is this possible?’ That never came in my head. It was just move on to the next day, the next season. Obviously, I think it was very important that we had a year under our belt with a somewhat nucleus of guys that we had, so it is still not where we want it to be.”

On the leadership of Jonathan Casillas...

“JC is a good man, a good leader, has good insight, has some good experience, so it is good stuff. ...His work ethic – look, he does a really good job, I think, of relationships with the other guys on the team and I think it is as much as anything away from the building. You hear that. I don’t ask the guys what they do away from the building, that is their business. But I know that the gatherings and him being a leader that way are really important and I think that the guys respect that.”