What sort of jump can Landon Collins make in Year 2 of his NFL career? There was some good and some bad in Collins' rookie season. Let's take a closer look at Collins as we continue our look at the 90-man roster the Giants will bring to training camp in late July.
2015 Season in Review
The Giants made a bold move up in the 2015 NFL Draft to select Collins, swapping their second and fourth-round picks to move up to the first pick of the second round and select a player they hoped would be the safety they needed. Collins was a starter from the first day he stepped onto a Giants' practice field, started all 16 regular-season games and led the team with 112 tackles, 84 of those solo.
A closer look, though, provides more evidence of why judging a player by the number of tackles he makes is really a fool's errand. Tackles do not necessarily mean successful play. Collins finished the season with a -8.5 Pro Football Focus grade, 84th out of 88 qualifying safeties. His NFL passer rating against was an abysmal 125.7, and he allowed five touchdowns while only getting one interception. Quarterbacks completed 74.2 percent of their passes when throwing into his area.
Collins was better against the run than the pass, which corresponds to what scouts expected when he came out of Alabama. Collins ended 2015 with a +2.7 PFF grade vs. the run and a -11.5 grade against the pass.
Let's be honest. Collins was in a difficult spot a year ago. He was paired most of the season with uninspiring and ineffective veterans Brandon Meriweather and Craig Dahl. He was probably asked to play deep center field more often than he should have been -- it's apparent he is better in the box or up close to the line of scrimmage defending the run and playing pass defense in short areas than he is trying to go sideline to sideline.
Let's also give Collins some credit for improving as the year went on. He earned PFF grades of -1.0 or worse against the pass in five of the Giants first eight games. He only had that happen once during the season half of the season, when he earned a rough -3.1 in the season finale.
2016 Season Outlook
After one whole season in the NFL, Collins is now the old man -- or at least the most experienced -- of the Giants group of safeties.
Safeties coach Dave Merritt was asked this spring about what type of step forward he thought Collins could make.
"Hopefully it's going to be a big one. I told Landon, ‘It's great that you had the opportunity to play all 16 games. Now you're getting ready for your second year, you need to understand that now, what's going to required of you ... you're going to be the veteran in the room probably,' " Merritt said. "I know that's kind of hard to say going into your second year, but he and I have talked a lot about how his leadership is going to be important for us. But I expect for Landon to do what he did last year, as far as the production, and more. Some of the interceptions that he wasn't able to come up with, I expect for him to make those next year, and he does as well."
The Giants selected ball-hawking center field safety Darian Thompson in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Thompson, Bennett Jackson and Mykkele Thompson are all potential free safety types. Nat Berhe may not be considered a traditional free safety, but is younger and likely has more range than either Dahl or Meriweather.
The Giants are hoping that a year of experience and being paired with a player who better complements his skill set, allows Collins to become the downhill force he was at Alabama.