Why Washington moved Collins closer to line of scrimmage


This past offseason, safety Landon Collins and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio both went on the record to say that the 27-year-old would not be switching his position to linebacker despite the emergence of Kam Curl last season and the addition of Bobby McCain.

As of now, Collins is still listed as the team's starting strong safety. Yet, in Washington's Week 6 loss to the Chiefs, Collins played in an almost exclusively hybrid linebacker role -- one where he lined up near the line of scrimmage -- with Curl and McCain playing the two traditional safety positions.

Part of the switch is due to injuries, as linebacker Jon Bostic is out for the year with a pectoral injury. But there are other factors that went into moving Collins into a new position. The coaching staff is trying to find the best way to get the most out of its $84.5 million safety.

"I think that's his strength. I think when he's down in the box, close to the action, I think that's where he plays some of his better football," head coach Ron Rivera said Monday. "He's a guy that's a downhill, attack-type player. That's what you're looking for when you're close to the line."

The results were mixed. Collins finished with six tackles on the day and was solid defending the run game, too. Collins is at his best when he's playing near the line of scrimmage, and seeing him make plays in the run game is what Washington hoped it would accomplish by moving him to this new role.


But, where Collins has struggled significantly since he arrived in D.C. has been defending in coverage. According to Pro Football Focus, only three safeties in the entire NFL have been worse in coverage than Collins this season.

By moving Collins into a more linebacker-esque role, the thinking was that he'd be less exposed in the passing game. Unfortunately for Washington, that was not the case against Kansas City.

On Sunday, Collins was picked on by Patrick Mahomes multiple times, including a 27-yard pass on the Chiefs' opening drive to set up a Darrell Williams touchdown. Tight end Travis Kelce also had his way with Collins much of the afternoon.

Based on Rivera's comments Monday, keeping Collins in this hybrid role appears to be the plan moving forward. Curl and McCain each played 100% of the team's defensive snaps on Sunday, while Collins' snap percentage dipped to 83% after playing 100% of defensive snaps the previous two weeks.

While the results have yet to be there, it's clear that Rivera and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio believe that moving Collins into this new role is the best way for him to have success. Collins simply can't revert to his traditional safety role. He's proven to be too much of a liability in coverage.

"I think with him, it's a lot of how he fits into what we're doing," Rivera said. "That's why we've moved him down into the box. We believe that's probably where he can use his strengths. This is about putting a guy in position to have success."