In addressing the media at Redskins Park on Thursday, multiple members within the Washington Redskins organization quickly dismissed the notion that newly-signed Redskin Landon Collins is "just a box safety."
Head coach Jay Gruden sees the former New York Giants All-Pro as far more than a sure-tackler and a run-stopper, though he's proved exemplary in both facets -- he's the only safety to record at least 95 tackles in each of the last four seasons. Vice President of Player Personnel Doug Williams believes the "box safety" label transpired out of past circumstances.
As the Redskins have experienced since his NFL debut in 2015, Collins possesses the athleticism and ability to assume varying responsibilities and present what Gruden views as a "major problem" for opposing offenses.
"I just felt like whenever you put on a New York Giants film, you feel No. 21," Gruden said during Collins' signing day press conference. "You just know where he is. You have to account for him in the running game, and at the end of the day, he’s going to make a bunch of plays."
"He’s a tone setter," Gruden added, "and I think we have been looking for that type of player on our defense for a while."
Gruden spoke with Collins in the hours before the safety signed his multi-year deal Thursday afternoon, informing the 2015 second-round pick about the revolving door of safeties in Washington since Gruden arrived more than five years ago.
For Gruden, it's comfortable knowing there's stability at the strong safety position, especially with a player as versatile as Collins. He can line up as a middle linebacker or take the form of a free safety. When Collins played in New York, Gruden often saw Collins in coverage with Redskins tight end Jordan Reed.
Plus, his impact extends beyond statistical contributions. As Williams stood at the podium to introduce the Redskins' newest addition Thursday, he used words like charisma and passion to describe the three-time Pro Bowler. Ask Collins about his biggest strength, and he'll point to his leadership and ability to motivate his teammates by example.
"The thing about football, so many young guys want to know what football does for them," Williams said. "I had an opportunity [Wednesday] to spend a lot of time with Landon, even though he’s from Louisiana; I never spent that much time with him. I did that yesterday and found out … he’s not worried about what football does for him as much as what he wants to do for football."
Perhaps Collins' character should not come as a surprise considering he has long idolized the late Sean Taylor and has modeled much of his game after the Redskins' former safety. By signing with the Redskins, he fulfilled one of his dreams.
Another factor contributing to Collins landing in Washington was the team's personnel, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Collins was confident he could adapt to the Redskins' scheme -- he said he learned three different defenses with the Giants -- so he directed more of his attention to who he would be playing with, and seeing former Alabama players Ryan Anderson, Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen in Washington enticed him.
Now, Collins is one of them, and he's ready to make his presence felt with teammates old and new.
"We know each other like the back of our hand -- we know how each other plays, how we get after it, how we love this game, where we came from. We’re ‘Bama made, so we know what it takes to win, and all we want to do is win," Collins said. "Yes, it played a great deal in trying to get here. They made it very easy because playing with guys that you know are going to get after it as much as I get after it, it made it much easier."