Late in the fourth quarter against Carolina on Dec. 1, Landon Collins brought down Panthers running back and MVP candidate Christian McCaffrey in the open field.
At the time, it was just another tackle for the fifth-year strong safety. But when looked at with a wider lens, it helped Collins achieve a milestone that's become almost automatic since he entered the NFL in 2015.
With a team-high eight tackles in a 29-21 win in Carolina, Collins has 101 tackles in his first season with the Redskins. It's the fourth time in five seasons he's eclipsed the 100-tackle mark, and the only reason he did not do so in 2018 was because of a shoulder injury that forced him to miss four games. Still, he finished the year with 96 tackles.
Collins' tackling prowess has resulted in three straight Pro Bowl appearances, and that streak should undoubtedly continue this season. Vote Collins to the 2020 Pro Bowl by visiting http://www.nfl.com/probowl/ballot. Then check out the statistics below and vote again.
"He's definitely one of my favorite safeties that I've played with," linebacker Jon Bostic said. "Just how physical he is in the run game. He's smart. He can do it all back there. He just adds a whole other element."
To understand why Collins should make the 2020 Pro Bowl, let's start by comparing his numbers this season to those in his Pro Bowl campaigns.
From 2016 to 2018, Collins averaged 108.3 tackles (81.7 solo) and 5.7 tackles for loss. He also combined for two forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, four sacks and seven interceptions.
However, many of those numbers are inflated due to his All-Pro campaign in 2016, when he became the first player in NFL history to record at least 100 solo tackles, more than two sacks, at least five interceptions and at minimum 12 pass deflections. If you just look at his 2017 and 2018 numbers, his averages are much lower for total tackles (100) and solo tackles (72.5). He also has just two interceptions and 10 pass breakups during that stretch.
Now, let's look at Collins' 2019 résumé. He's on pace for a career-high 134.6 total tackles as well as 89.3 solo tackles, which would be the second-highest total of his career. He already has eight tackles for loss -- his career-high is nine -- to go along with a sack and a forced fumble.
Granted, the coverage statistics are lacking, as he has only three passes breakups and does not have an interception. But he's been just as good, if not better as a run stopper and a tackler compared to his other Pro Bowl seasons.
"My style is different from most [defensive backs]," Collins said of the way he tackles. "Most of them are cut tacklers. They cut at the knees. If I'm cutting at the knees, it's only because the guy is far away from me and the only thing I can do is dive. All DBs tackle; not all of them do it the way I do it."
|2017 (16 games)||2018 (12 games)||2019 (12 games)|
|Tackles For Loss||3||5||8|
|Forced Fumbles & Fumble Recoveries||3||1||1|
In comparing Collins to his peers, it's easy to see that he's been one of the best safeties in the NFL this season. Among defensive backs, he ranks tied for first in the league in tackles for loss, second in total tackles and third in solo tackles. Expanding the scope to the entire NFL, he's 11th in total tackles and 10th in solo tackles through 13 weeks.
"His overall leadership and knowledge of the game, his ability to diagnose, understand, anticipate -- it's really at a different level than most safeties in the league," interim coach Bill Callahan said Nov. 21. "Then you tie in his coverage ability, his pressure ability and the aspect of matching up against a tight end and running back. He gives you a lot of flexibility and he presents a different barrier for an offense for a protection aspect and from a coverage aspect. I've got a ton of respect for Landon [Collins] and what he's brought to our team, not only from aspect but from a leadership role as well."
Put simply, Collins has given the Redskins a bona fide defensive playmaker that offenses must account for. And while there have not been many game-changing plays, there's been plenty of memorable moments during his first season in Washington. "There are multiple plays I could name off," corner Quinton Dunbar acknowledged. "There's too many to name."
So make sure to reward Collins for his efforts and vote him to the 2020 Pro Bowl. A fourth straight appearance is definitely warranted.
Staff writer Zach Selby contributed to this story.