There’s only one thing that seems to be standing between New York Giants safety Landon Collins and his quest for greatness.
His sweet tooth.
Collins, who famously sacrificed his beloved vanilla Oreo cookies last year in a quest to trim 10 pounds off his 220-pound frame so he can “fly around” this year, sheepishly confessed to having developed an affection for the homemade banana pudding provided to the defensive meeting room members by Maria Spagnuolo, wife of defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.
“I had two of them,” Collins said. “I was about to take the pan. Can’t bring sweets around me.”
It’s all a part of Collins master plan to overthrow Seattle Seahawks safety Earl Thomas off his throne as the league’s best safety.
“I am very driven,” Collins said. “I watch guys like Eric Berry, I watch guys like Earl Thomas, I watch guys like Kam Chancellor those guys have terrific seasons each and every year. They build on top of their great seasons that they have and their work ethic is phenomenal.
“I’m going to Earl Thomas’ camp this upcoming week and we are definitely going to chop it up and stuff like that. The mindset I want to have is just like him.”
He’s certainly off to a good start after only two seasons. Collins, listed as the Giants’ strong safety, has amazed 237 career tackles, four sacks, 22 passes defensed, six interceptions and one forced fumble in his short career. Thomas, an eight-year veteran, has 554 tackles, no sacks, 56 passes defensed, 23 interceptions, and nine forced fumbles having primarily played the free safety position for the Seahawks.
By all accounts, Collins, who debuted on the NFL Network’s annual Top 100 Players list at 28 this year, had a career year last season, a year in which he was named to his first Pro Bowl.
Was he surprised to learn that David Merritt, his position coach, ranked his play as a seven out of 10 last year?
“I would say I am a 7 too,” he said, adding that he expects to be a 10. “There are a lot of things I could work on and I was nitpicking and watching my film myself, and watch my film by myself, there are a few things I know I could be better at myself and I am definitely going to work on it this year and this offseason.”
“I looked at a lot of stuff that I could work on and I talked to coach Spags about different things and he asked me what I was going to work on in this offseason and I said the main thing I really wanted to work on was reading my keys and being able to recognize plays way faster than I did last year, and just muscling down,” Collins said.
“Things like that, and being able to run around the field and make plays that is the biggest thing and my biggest key.”[graphiq id=”eKV23lm0YvP” title=”The NFL’s Top 20 Strong Safetys in 2016″ width=”600″ height=”813″ url=”https://sw.graphiq.com/w/eKV23lm0YvP” frozen=”true”]
This spring he’s made strides toward improvement.
“Everybody has to have the cerebral part of the game down. I think that everyone can do better at that,” Spagnuolo said.
“I think that there was a time early in the year last year that Landon struggled a bit with play action and recognizing play action and especially his first year. But we threw one at him today and he made a nice play, so he has progressed with that. And little disguise things. I think that there are some little detail things that I think he is working on.
“Landon is one of those guys that I don’t believe he rests on his laurels. I just think he wants to go out there and work. He is passionate about the game and he is always coming to me to do extra things, I don’t have to chase him.”
That’s because Collins is too busy chasing down his dream: to be voted into the Hall of Fame someday.
“Me and coach Merritt have talks all the time and he asked me what is my goal,” Collins said. “My ultimate goal is to wear that yellow jacket at the end of the day, that gold jacket.
“At the end of the day, at the end of my career, that is my goal, and the work that I have to put in, and the chemistry that I have to have with my coaches and my guys, and the acknowledgement of what I have to put on the field, it has to be 10 and above.”
Which is why he’ll start with chasing Thomas’ title as the best safety in the game.
“I went to his camp last year it was me, Ha-Ha [Clinton-Dix], and a couple of other safeties that were there. He was like, ‘Which one of y’all is going to take my spot?’ I told him I was going to come and get it so that was my goal.”
For as driven as he is, Collins knows that he is still one of 11 men on a unit that needs all its parts to function like clockwork.
“It looks great to me,” Collins said of the defense. “We’ve got all the guys back. All the guys know what they are doing. It’s like second nature now. It’s just building, building on top and adding more to the defense so we can just confuse the offense when we play against them.”
That’s especially true for the defensive secondary.
“It can be tremendously better,” Collins said of the passing defense. “You are trying to be ranked up with Earl Thomas and them with the Broncos defense. You are trying to be out here and play with their secondary. The guys we have back there, and the chemistry that we have, and the respect we have for one another is unbelievable.”