Landon Collins says the biggest issue facing the Giants’ defense last year wasn’t play-calling or missed tackles or blown assignments. It was simply a matter of trust — a trust that took too long to develop.
“As I think about it, I feel like we didn’t trust the system,” the second-year safety said of last year’s unit, which ranked last in the NFL. “At the time, we were all new to the system and coming in as a new team and trying to put it together. But from here on out, as you play with each other, most of us coming back, we are one. As a defense, we fight to the finish. Other than that, the struggles that we had last year, I don’t see it coming this year.”
Collins said the team is focused on making a big leap in the rankings. And as he and his teammates reported to training camp Thursday, they were aware of their lowly starting point.
“It’s motivation, it’s a chip on our shoulder,” he said of last year’s poor showing. “You put it behind you, you don’t think about it, but you know that we were 32 in the league and now you’re pushing to get that number in the top 10 at least. That’s our biggest goal.”
Collins was a rookie thrust into a key starting position last year. There were other deficient areas in the defense, and he said it wasn’t until Week 7 that he felt the team started to come together.
“All of us didn’t know our positions, we didn’t know our positions well enough that we could learn other positions,” he said. “We didn’t know the linebacker or the defensive line positions so we can line up and help where their gaps can be filled. [Now] the linebackers know the corner position so they know where the safety comes down, and as a safety, we know where the linebacker is supposed to be and we know where the linemen are supposed to be at so we can help fill in the gaps of the defense where you have a big hole occur. Stuff like that is pushing forward more than X’s and O’s.”
The Giants added key players on defense in free agency, but they still have a few areas of concern. One of them is next to Collins. Rookie Darian Thompson will compete with a number of others for the job of starting free safety.
“It definitely matters to me because I have to trust the guy next to me,” Collins said. “Every safety that I play with and practice with next to me I have to trust. I have to know his calls, he has to be trustworthy so if I make a mistake and I make a bad call, he can overrule me and make sure we’re all on the same page.”
Collins said he hopes to improve on his man-to-man coverage this season.
“My eyes were out everywhere trying to see more than I needed to see,” he said of being a rookie. “You just need to see a little to see a lot, and that’s my [motto] this year.”
That, along with trusting the system and his teammates. And having them trust him.
“That year was very difficult just being thrown in there and not fully knowing and not fully trusting it and having a lot of pressure put on you trying to get the calls out and get everybody to trust you at the same time,” Collins said. “Having that year underneath my belt is tremendous because you see things that you’re going to see this year, you see tendencies that you saw last year, and you just pick up from there. You can anticipate things and react 10 times faster.”