Landon Collins will be watching the first few passes when the Lions get the ball for the first time Sunday. Those throws may well determine what kind of game he and the rest of the Giants’ defense has.
He’ll be watching from the back, at his safety position, to look for any changes in the delivery or trajectory from Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. Stafford has been putting up MVP-like numbers but enters the game with a dislocated tip of his middle finger that might need extra tape, might require him to wear a glove and might impact his performance.
“You have to watch how his ball comes out,” Collins said. “On the back, I will be. [If he doesn’t] have a lot of zip on it, then you can feed off how he is throwing his ball . . . You have a feel for his ball, that he doesn’t have that touch that he needs.”
Collins won’t be alone.
“I’ll have some of the guys upstairs looking,” defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said. “If he’s functioning differently, then maybe we will change things.”
While they’ll be on the lookout for signs of weakness, though, the Giants are not expecting to find any.
“I’m going to assume right now going in there that he can throw it every bit as good as we have seen him,” Spagnuolo said. “I’m planning on seeing the guy that we’ve seen on tape. He’s a good football player.”
All indications from practice observers in Detroit are that Stafford has done OK with the finger. He’s been a full participant in the team’s workouts. The Detroit Free Press reported Thursday, though, that he did not seem as sharp as he did on Wednesday and that he was fiddling with the glove quite a bit.
“He’s a tough guy,” said Giants receiver Tavarres King, a teammate of Stafford’s at the University of Georgia. “I wouldn’t expect anything else from him than to remain himself and continue being tough and fighting for his team. He’s going to have a chip on his shoulder.”
A chip to prove that the injury won’t slow him down.
“I think he’s going to play and we’re going to get crisp, tight spirals,” linebacker Jonathan Casillas said. “He likes to fit the football into tight spaces because he has the arm strength to do that. I think that’s what we’re going to get. He’s a top-tier quarterback. The way he’s playing now, he’s definitely a top-tier quarterback.”
That would put strength against strength. The Giants’ secondary has been the backbone not only of the defense but of the entire team’s success. The Giants have faced five of the NFL’s top 10 quarterbacks in passing yards this season and are 3-2 in those games. Stafford will be the sixth.
Is he the best the Giants will face this season?
“You could say that,” Casillas said. “We’ll see after Sunday if we make him a good quarterback or not.”
If Stafford is, in fact, at 100 percent, it will be an opportunity for the Giants’ defense to measure themselves against an elite passer. A playoff appetizer, if you will. In fact, this could be a playoff matchup preview.
“The competition in the playoffs, all these [quarterbacks] have the potential to make it to the Super Bowl,” Casillas said. “Every week is important leading up to it and then when you get to the dance, that’s it. It’s the dance. You have to come prepared; you have to do everything you can to be prepared for everything.”