Landon Collins signed to active roster to help Giants’ playoff push
The Giants haven’t made the playoffs since Landon Collins’ 2016 All-Pro season at safety.
Now Collins is back to the future, signed to the Giants’ active roster on Thursday, with a chance to help them back into the postseason at linebacker in 2022.
“It’s crazy,” Collins said Thursday at his locker. “After so many years, and the last [berth] was when I was here. It’s just a blessing if we get that opportunity again. We didn’t get to finish what we did last time. I see we’re on that road to getting that opportunity again.”
It has been a long road back.
Collins cashed in with Washington in free agency in 2019 when the Giants let him walk. He was released this spring after a disappointing and injury-filled stint in D.C., and he re-signed to the Giants’ practice squad on Oct. 6.
But after playing sparingly in Weeks 7 and 8 against the Jaguars and Seahawks on practice squad elevations, Collins fell out of the rotation completely.
[ Giants can clinch first playoff berth since 2016 with a Christmas Eve win over Vikings and some help ]
“It’s definitely humbling,” Collins said of the long wait. “But I’ve always been that way. I’ve always been a worker. I didn’t come in here with any expectations or anything like that. I came here just to go to work and be back in the building.”
He sat out five straight games until the Giants gave him his third and final practice squad elevation to the gameday roster against his former Washington team on Sunday Night Football.
And Collins delivered situationally with three tackles in 27 defensive snaps and 14 special teams snaps. That included a solo first-down tackle on running back Brian Robinson Jr. for no gain and a third-down run stop on Curtis Samuel for two yards to force a third quarter punt.
That performance convinced the Giants to sign Collins to the active roster Thursday to continue suiting him up Saturday at Minnesota and beyond, while waiving linebacker Tae Crowder and adding him to the practice squad.
Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale even said Wednesday that he’s “very comfortable” increasing Collins’ role on defense.
“I think he had one misread out there [at Washington], which is kind of expected a little bit because it’s been so long since he’s played,” Martindale said. “But I thought he did a nice job, and I’m excited to see where he goes.”
This doesn’t mean Collins is going to become an every down player. Rookie inside linebacker Micah McFadden is expected to continue playing in the base defense.
But Collins gives Martindale another tool to match offenses, particularly when it comes to athleticism and tackling down near the line of scrimmage.
Collins, who once publicly resisted the move from safety to linebacker in Washington, has now embraced whatever will help him get on the field with the Giants and help the team win.
His patience to wait his turn to contribute, especially as a player with status in this league, has impressed head coach Brian Daboll.
“That’s what we look for, the type of guys we look for to bring into the organization,” Daboll said. “It’s not always going to be perfect. It’s never always going to go your way. Come in with a good attitude. Continue to work. Continue to earn it.
“That’s not easy to do,” Daboll added. “Whether it’s Landon or a guy like [wide receiver Darius] Slayton. There’s a mental toughness that you need to have to play this game, and it’s not just after a loss. Maybe it’s from playtime; maybe it’s another thing that you’ve got to keep pushing and keep a positive attitude. And he’s done that.”
Collins, linebacker Jaylon Smith and safety Tony Jefferson, three veterans who weren’t on this roster in training camp, now are all playing significant roles in the middle of Martindale’s defense.
“We kind of knew how each other played, and when we got on the field we just gelled because of that vet mentality, our knowledge of the game, how we know things could be happening, and those scars that we had back in our younger days, it sticks with us,” Collins said. “So we’ll always be in tune with that, and it helps us defensively to make plays on the field.”
The goal now is to keep playing long past the Giants’ regular season finale at Philadelphia in Week 18 to try and finish what Collins’ Giants once started back in 2016.
“It’s exciting because now you get to make some plays for this team and make that run,” he said with a smile.
Left tackle Andrew Thomas has had an excellent third NFL season, but he was not named to the Pro Bowl. He was tabbed as a third alternate. And while he’s not losing sleep over it, he noticed.
“I mean, I think anyone that plays this game, they’re competitive and you want to receive accolades for what you do on the field,” Thomas said. “I don’t control that; all I control is what I do on the field. Just continue to get better. Got a lot of football left, so I look forward to that.”
This year’s NFC first-team offensive tackles are Niners left tackle Trent Williams, Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson and Bucs right tackle Tristan Wirfs. Wirfs was the No. 13 overall pick behind Thomas at No. 4 in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Thomas has been excellent this year protecting Daniel Jones, though, and he’s not letting the snub prevent him from feeling encouraged by his third-year surge.
“Very proud,” Thomas said of his performance to date. “I’m excited. I’m looking forward to the future. Still have a good chance to make the playoffs. I’m excited for it.”
GIANTS GAME STATUSES: CB Adoree Jackson (knee) and G Shane Lemieux (toe) are out. No other player has a designation for the game, although four players remained limited in Thursday’s practice: RT Evan Neal (shoulder), OLB Kayvon Thibodeaux (elbow), TE Nick Vannett (shoulder) and DL Leonard Williams (neck). WR Isaiah Hodgins (calf) was added to Thursday’s report with a new injury, but he remained a full participant and will play Saturday.
VIKINGS GAME STATUSES: C Garrett Bradbury (back) is out. LB Eric Kendricks (hip) and CB Cam Dantzler (ankle) are questionable, though Kendricks was a full participant Thursday.
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