EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) New York Giants safety Landon Collins has become one of those players that opposing offenses can't overlook.
Collins is the Giants' playmaker on defense, and much more.
Playing on a team that has boasted such Hall of Famers as Lawrence Taylor, Harry Carson and Michael Strahan, the second-year pro from Alabama has become the first Giant to win conference player of the week awards in consecutive games.
Two weeks ago, he was recognized for intercepting two passes against the Rams in London, with one resulting in an incredible return for a touchdown.
After the bye week, Collins came back against the Eagles this past weekend with 12 tackles, and his interception on the opening series set up the first of four Eli Manning touchdown passes.
''He's a beast,'' said fellow safety Andrew Adams, who then repeated the statement for emphasis. ''He is flying around, making plays, hitting people. It's what you need from a safety.''
Collins is a big reason the Giants (5-3) are off to their best start since 2012, when they were 6-2 at the halfway point. He leads the team in tackles (69), sacks (3) and interceptions (3), the only player in the NFL to lead his team in all three categories this season.
No Giant has led the team in both sacks and interceptions in a full season since sacks became an official statistic in 1982. The last NFL player to do it was Pittsburgh's Lawrence Timmons in 2012 (3 interceptions, 6 sacks). This season, Yannick Ngakoue leads the Jacksonville Jaguars in both categories (4 sacks, one of three players with one interception).
Collins was unaware of the statistics.
''I'm just out there playing ball, doing what is best for the defense,'' he said Wednesday as the team started preparing for Monday night's game against the Cincinnati Bengals (3-4-1). ''I'm just trying to help in any way possible.''
Collins has come a long way this season.
The Giants moved up in the draft last year to grab him with the first pick of the second round. He became an instant starter on a unit that blew six leads either late in the fourth quarter or in overtime.
For a kid who came into the NFL with a chip on his shoulder after being passed over in the first round, it was a humbling experience. So he worked harder in the offseason, and it has paid off.
"As I kept on working, kept on understanding the defense and working at my craft, I definitely knew I was going to get to this point sooner than later,'' said Collins, who grew up modeling his game after the late Sean Taylor.
Collins can't get enough of football. When he is not lifting, he either is in the film room or studying opposing offenses.
On the opening drive against the Eagles, he recognized the route concept on the pass to Nelson Agholor from something the Eagles did the week before. He kept his leverage and intercepted the overthrown pass by Carson Wentz.
He remembered to credit end Olivier Vernon for putting pressure on Wentz.
''It always starts with the D-line,'' said Collins who had only one interception in his first 22 games. ''If they get pressure, a push back there, it's going to be a tackle for a loss or a play that gives us an interception. When they get going, we all get going.''
Collins is the first to win defensive player of the week awards in consecutive games since Chicago cornerback Charles Tillman in 2012, and the first safety since Pittsburgh's Troy Polamalu in 2010.
The New Orleans native is the first Giants defensive player to win two player of the week awards in a season since safety Stevie Brown in 2012. Quarterback Eli Manning won the offensive award twice in 2015.
Manning said he saw how talented Collins was last season.
''The first year you come in, there's a lot going on,'' Manning said. ''NFL defense is a lot more complex. Defense is thrown at you. You're maybe thinking a little bit and you might not make the plays that you normally would make. Now, you see him flying around and totally confident in what he's doing. The results show on game day.''
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