Landon Collins said he was flying to the ball to start the Giants’ preseason opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers Friday night because he is “coming out of the gate blazing” in the 2017 NFL season.
The All-Pro safety said he told his position coach he was “too flat” to start the 2016 regular season when it came to making big plays, so he is determined to turn it up from day one this year.
“I’m trying to start the season off fast,” Collins said after making four solo tackles on just 10 snaps in Friday night’s 20-12 preseason loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“I didn’t set the tone quick enough last season, so I’m coming out the gate this time blazing. I feel like I was on the backburner for the longest until we played the Rams (in London) and then I got the recognition. I’d been doing the same thing just not the big plays. Now I’ve got to start off quicker making those plays.”
Collins started dominating on the Steelers’ first play from scrimmage by ambushing running back Fitzgerald Toussaint for a one-yard loss. Then on second down Collins chased down and walloped wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster out of bounds to limit his reception to a four-yard gain.
Coach Ben McAdoo after the game called Collins “an animal” because he’s “always around the ball.”
Collins’ standout play Friday seemed similar to his performance in the Giants’ second preseason game against Buffalo last summer. He made tackles on all three downs of a goal-line stand, including a ferocious hit that forced a fumble recovered in the end zone by Damon Harrison.
That sequence, it turns out, was a harbinger of Collins’ explosive second NFL season that finished with him being one of four finalists for the league’s defensive player of the year award.
Collins told the Daily News recently that he believes he can take the next step in his career and win the award this season, and so Friday night’s brief but impressive performance was his first step toward that goal.
“If you get in five, six, seven, 15 plays in the preseason, make those count,” Collins said. “Every time I try to make them count as much as possible. I’m not just out there lolly-gagging because I’m about to come off the field.”
GETTING THEIR KICKS
Aldrick Rosas and Mike Nugent both kicked so well on Friday night that McAdoo was able to crack a joke about his offense’s inability to get in the end zone.
“I thought both kickers kicked real well,” the coach said. “I’ve never been so excited to kick a field goal.”
The kicking competition did get off to an encouraging start, with the undrafted rookie Rosas banging a 52-yard field goal and a 27-yarder, and the veteran Nugent hitting from 45 and 30. Combined, they went 4-for-4. Now, the next step for the Giants’ offense: scoring a touchdown.
BUMPS AND BRUISES
Safety Duke Ihenacho (hamstring) was ruled out for the rest of Friday night’s game in the second quarter … Eli Manning, Odell Beckham Jr., Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Jason Pierre-Paul did not play, though all are healthy. Unlike the other three, Beckham was in full uniform, on the game roster, and even pumped up the team at midfield pre-game, but he did not play. Manning sat out the preseason opener for the second straight year. QB Josh Johnson made the start instead while DE Kerry Wynn got the start in place of Pierre-Paul … Sitting due to injury were receivers Sterling Shepard (ankle) and Tavarres King (ankle), linebackers Keenan Robinson (concussion) and Mark Herzlich (stinger), defensive tackle Robert Thomas (soreness), safety Ryan Murphy (lower body) and receiver Kevin Snead (lower body).