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Giants need healthy Landon Collins to turn defense around in 2018

Star safety limited by injuries in 2017

NFL: New York Giants at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Landon Collins’ 2018 season hasn’t gotten off to the best start. He found out he needed a second surgery on the forearm he broke last season, and he got called out by head coach Pat Shurmur for speaking out of turn regarding Ereck Flowers.

Collins, though, is the best player on the Giants’ defense and will be a key part of what the team hopes will be a defensive revitalization in the upcoming season. Let’s discuss Collins as we continue our look at teh 90-man roster the Giants will bring to training camp.

2017 season in review

The most admirable thing about Collins’ season was the toughness he displayed. Early in the season, he played through a high ankle sprain that limited his mobility and effectiveness. Late in the season, the Giants’ dismal record couldn’t stop him from playing through another ankle injury. What did finally stop him was a broken forearm.

Collins’ production went down — 125 tackles in 2016 to 99, four sacks to zero, 13 passes defensed to six, five interceptions to two. He was named to the Pro Bowl for the second straight year, but didn’t earn All-Pro honors as he had in 2016.

2018 outlook

Before finding out that he would need another surgery to repair his broken forearm, Collins spoke to media about turning the page from last season.

“You just clear the slate. Everything that happened back then, you just let it roll over and it’s in the back of your mind, but it’s a new team, new year, new guys, new faces and we’re just ready to get this party on the road,” Collins said.

Right now, Collins is rehabbing from that second surgery and will probably not take the field until training camp. When he does, the 24-year-old will be one of the key players in the Giants’ revamped defense.

There has been an assumption that new defensive coordinator James Bettcher might use Collins, who is comfortable playing closer to the line of scrimmage, in the “Money-backer” role he had Deone Buccanon play with the Arizona Cardinals. Because of Collins size and effectiveness at the line of scrimmage that makes sense.

Bettcher, though, may have other ideas for Collins.

“I look at him as a guy -- we had some guys in Arizona, Tyvon Branch and before Tyvon we had Tony Jefferson who played strong safety for us who could play both high, could play down in the box, could cover tight ends, could blitz off the edge. That’s what I see with Landon, a guy who is very versatile in what he can do,” Bettcher said earlier in the offseason. “You might see a snap where he’s down covering a tight end in the box, you might see a snap where he’s in the half field playing deep or in the middle of the field playing deep or you might see snaps where he’s blitzing off the edge. I think that’s the versatility a guy like him lends and that’s something that as you look and study defenses across the league and you talk to offensive guys of what gives them trouble, it’s players that have that versatility -- that one snap they’re down in the box and the next snap they’re playing high. That kind of versatility gives offenses trouble and I’m excited to have a chance to work with him.”

However he is eventually used, Collins is a better player than he showed in 2017. His return to health and to his 2016 form would go a long way toward helping the Giants b=get back to playing quality defense.