For most of the last week and a half, all anybody has wanted to talk to Landon Collins about is the pick. Well, almost everyone. He did get to spend some time with his 1-year-old son in Orlando during the bye week, and the play never came up. But for the most part, the most exciting play of Collins’ brief NFL career was the main topic of conversation.
“Oh man, I’m still hearing about it,” Collins said of his interception against the Rams and ensuing 44-yard return for a touchdown (which, according to the NFL, actually covered more than 111 yards and helped make him NFC Defensive Player of the Week). “But I’m ready now to continue making more plays.”
More and better?
Collins, 22, doesn’t want to be known for only one play, especially not one so early in his career. That happened to a teammate when Odell Beckham Jr. made his iconic one-handed catch against the Cowboys as a rookie. It’s all anyone wants to know about. It defines someone. The play becomes bigger than the player.
“He’s still going through it,” a chuckling Collins said of Beckham’s burden.
So what’s the most important thing Collins wants us to know about his standout catch and return?
“That’s not just the one great thing I can do,” he said. “I can do a lot more. I’ll just try to change it up this weekend.
“You want to be known for miraculous plays.”
While Collins’ second season has not quite been a stunning transformation, it has been an impressive improvement from his rookie season when he looked, at times, to be lost on the field in the midst of a swirling typhoon of terrible play and overmatched personnel.
This year, through seven games, Collins has put his own stamp on the defense. While playing just about every snap in every game, he leads the team in tackles and is tied for the lead in sacks (2.0) and interceptions (2). He has evolved into the go-to voice on the field, especially as the Giants have dealt with injuries in their secondary for the past month.
“Landon has held things together for us a little while there,” general manager Jerry Reese said. “He’s been a main guy back there holding us together. He’s played well. I’m happy for him.”
“They put a lot of stuff on my shoulders and I have to be accountable for that,” Collins said. “Guys look up to me to make the right calls and be in the right position and knowing where the help’s at.”
Collins doesn’t yet want to take ownership of the defense, though. It’s not his group the way it was, in the past, Michael Strahan’s group or Antonio Pierce’s or Antrel Rolle’s.
“The only time I’d say that is when I have the C on my chest,” he said. “Until then, it’s not my defense.”
Does Collins want to be a captain one day?
“One day,” he said. “One day.”
As for now, with the secondary appearing to be healthy for the first time since Week 2, the not quite Collins’ defense should be even better. The last time — the only time — the Giants had their full projected starting secondary on the field was against the Saints. In that game, they held Drew Brees to 263 passing yards. In Brees’ six other games this season he’s averaged 350.5.
“Tremendous,” Collins said of what the pass defense in particular can be with the return of safeties Darian Thompson and Nat Berhe and healed cornerbacks Eli Apple and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. “After the Saints game we went down because all our DBs were going down and we weren’t getting the same excitement back there. Now we’re getting them all back, so it’s going to be very exciting to see.”
Maybe even more exciting than a 44-yard interception return.