Football Team

What does Landon Collins remaining at safety mean?

Football Team
Landon Collins

Landon Collins got his wish.

The 27-year-old will remain a strong safety for the Washington Football Team in 2021, defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio told Washington vice president of media and content Julie Donaldson.

"He's a strong safety, working his butt off and getting in shape," Del Rio said.

Entering 2021, there was some thought from both analysts and fans that Collins, who's played safety his entire career, would be better fit in a linebacker-hybrid role moving forward. Collins is at his best when he's making plays near the line of scrimmage, something he'd have the chance to do more of had he switched his position.

But Collins has long said that he's solely a safety and his defensive coordinator has no imminent plans to change that. Del Rio told Donaldson that Collins has actually dropped weight this offseason during his recovery from the ruptured Achilles he suffered last October. 

"I asked him to be just a little bit lighter this year," Del Rio said. "I think another year in the system, understanding what we do, how we do it, making sure he's in the right place at the right time and that he can be the impactful player that we think he's capable of being."

If Collins had been planning to move to linebacker, it's likely he would've tried to gain weight this offseason, rather than lose it.

In seven games under Del Rio last season, Collins was just beginning to hit his stride before his Achilles injury ended his season. The safety finished 2020 with 41 tackles, two sacks, one forced fumble and one interception for the Burgundy and Gold defense.

 

Another major reason some figured Collins might be in line for a position switch was the emergence of then-rookie Kamren Curl during his absence last season. 

Filling in for Collins, Curl finished the 2020 campaign with 88 tackles, three interceptions and four passes defended for Washington. The 2020 seventh-round pick dazzled toward the end of the season and surely earned himself a place in Washington's defense moving forward.

As for what Curl's role will be in 2021, Del Rio said he plans to have the Arkansas product line up in multiple different spots in the secondary.

"It means Kam will be playing like he did last year, whether he plays in the Buffalo nickel, whether he plays free safety, whether he spells Landon, however he creates his time," Del Rio said.

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In base formation, Collins and Curl will likely be Washington's starting safety duo, unless the club adds another veteran this offseason. Del Rio also said that third-round pick Benjamin St-Juste will play cornerback, not safety, for Washington. St-Juste played primarily cornerback at Minnesota, but some draft analysts believed he'd be better suited at safety at the professional level.

However, neither Collins nor Curl possess the game-breaking speed and range that an elite free safety has. It's part of the reason why Washington was linked to former TCU free safety Trevon Moehrig multiple times during the pre-draft process.

Ultimately, Washington still needs to find a true free safety. Fifth-round pick Darrick Forrest could eventually transition into that role, but it's unlikely that happens right away. Jeremy Reaves started three games for the club at free safety last season and showed promise at times, too, but it's way too early to cement him as the team's starter.

For now, Collins will remain at strong safety. Curl will have a substantial role on defense, too. But, what Del Rio's plan is at free safety is yet to be seen. And, it isn't any closer to being solved by keeping Collins at his natural strong safety spot, either.