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Dropped weight helping Giants’ Landon Collins play faster

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Safeties coach Dave Merritt calls Collins “a breath of fresh air”

New York Giants v Buffalo Bills
Landon Collins forcing a fumble on Saturday vs. Buffalo.
Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Through two preseason games it has been easy to see. Second-year safety Landon Collins is a much-improved player from a year ago, when he started all 16 games but didn’t always play well. Safeties coach Dave Merritt said Thursday there are two reasons. The obvious one is the year of experience. The second one? Merritt said Collins is lighter than he was a year ago.

Listed by the Giants at 6-foot, 225 pounds, Merritt said the 2015 second-round draft pick is down to a svelte 216 pounds.

“Landon is taking care of his body,” Merritt said. “I told him, ‘If you want to become one of the elite safeties in the league you are going to have to at least get between 212 and 216.’ He texted me this morning, it is funny and he said, ‘Coach, I am at 216’, I said, ‘Great. Keep it up.’ “

In Saturday’s preseason game against the Buffalo Bills, Collins forced a Jerome Felton fumble at the goal line that prevented a Bills touchdown and resulted in a turnover. He also sliced into the backfield several times to disrupt running plays.

“Landon has been a breath of fresh air versus the young man from last year because he understands the defense a little more being in his second year, so he is communicating, he is taking charge out there as well as Darian (Thompson), so I am very happy with Landon and where he is mentally,” Merritt said.

“If you know what you are doing, you are going to actually be able to play faster. You are not going to be mentally constipated and the fact that he is able to go out and just as Darian, being able to receive the call and actually executing and knowing what he is doing, he is playing much faster.”

Here are more takeaways from Meritt, who likely won’t be available to the media again until some point during the regular season.

Darian Thompson “will be ready” for season opener

The free safety spot next to Collins might be “in flux” for the next couple of weeks, but Merritt has no doubt that Darian Thompson, currently out with a shoulder injury, will be on the field for the regular-season opener against the Dallas Cowboys.

“Oh, he will be ready. He will be ready. My thing is, I told the young man, ‘You are a young fella, you should heal well, if you were my age you would be out for six months’, but by him being young, I truly believe that he will be ready to go,” Merritt said.H”e is in there taking notes and has continued to try to help all the other guys in the room as far as the game plan and etc. So I don’t think it derails him at all.”

Merritt, like defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, said that it is “assertiveness” that stands out about Thompson.

“This kid has come in from day one, he’s been able to go out and receive the calls that would come into the huddle and he is able to go out and actually execute it and just being very firm with his calls whether he is right or wrong,” Merritt said. “That is the one thing that he has shown from day one, is just being assertive and making a call and sticking to it.”

Leon Hall thinks safety is “pretty cool”

Veteran Leon Hall has played cornerback his entire career. With Thompson down, though, he is seeing a bit of time at the free safety spot. Merritt believes he likes it.

“He is seeing a lot of the route concepts, so by him going back and seeing it from a deeper depth perception it has actually been refreshing for him. You ask him that and it is like, ‘Wow. This is pretty cool, I can see exactly what is going on in front of me’, and that is what you get as a safety. You are actually able to pull your eyes back and see it for what it is. That is what you are, you are the safety and you have to keep everyone else safe. You are the eraser; you are the guy that has to make things right,” Merritt said. “What I think about Leon is the fact that he is very smart and he is able to understand the concepts and he is vocal as well.”

Giants defense the way it used to be

Merritt, who has been with the Giants since 2004, was asked how much the fortified defensive line helps the secondary.

“I will tell you. I have been fortunate to be able to be around here when we won two championships and it starts up front. Coach McAdoo preaches that it starts up front with the big guys,” Merritt said. “Whether you are on the offensive side or whether you are on the defensive side, but it is definitely going to help us tremendously. I mean, with the new guys we have in here; OV and Darian and Snacks. These guys are doing the things that I have been used to in the past, so we have that back.”