Those people have it all wrong, Collins says.
“I laugh, honestly, because I’m not just a box safety,” Collins said Thursday. "I make plays in the box, yeah, but I make plays in other places, too. People see me in the box because that’s what teams ask me to do sometimes.
“Pretty much it’s people that don’t know what they’re talking about. When I get the opportunity to show that I can play different spots, I will.”
The New York Giants had four head coaches during Collins’s four seasons, including a four-game interim stint from Steve Spagnuolo, who was Collins’s defensive coordinator for three seasons. James Bettcher took over as coordinator in 2018 under new head coach Pat Shurmur. Collins explained that he was asked to do different things under different coaches in New York, learning three different schemes, and believes he will show more range in Washington. The Redskins will move Collins around, but he will have traditional safety responsibilities that adjust with different calls against different offensive formations.
“They do the things that I like to do,” Collins said. "Then we have a great defensive front. That’s what I’m big on. You have a good defensive front, everything else is easy. ... I did what Coach [Spagnuolo asked], kind of played quarters ... and kind of be that roll-down safety, that pack safety, that quarter safety that has the run responsibility and also has to make sure to be on his cues for the pass.”
The bonus for Collins is that he’s not learning the Redskins’ defense for the first time. He has seen them twice a year as NFC East rivals with the Giants and began to pay extra attention once Washington traded for his former Alabama teammate Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who agreed to sign with the Chicago Bears on Thursday. The Redskins’ defense featured six Alabama players in 2018 and will again this season with Collins’s arrival.
“I watched their defense even more with Ha Ha because I was like, ‘They making a ‘Bama defense on some crazy stuff,'" Collins said with a laugh. "I was like, ‘If me and Ha Ha get back there, it might be dangerous.'”
Collins won’t be joined by Clinton-Dix, and the Redskins still have work to do in fleshing out their safety rotation. But the team clearly has high hopes for its latest addition.
“There’s no doubt about it. He was at the top of our board,” said Doug Williams, Washington’s senior vice president of player personnel. “Safety’s a position we’ve been tinkering with the last couple years. And to have the opportunity to get a guy like that, 25 years old, that’s what you’re looking for: a guy who you know can play, a Pro Bowl-type guy who wants to be here. ... His play speaks for itself.”
Collins is still healing from a December shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum that ended his 2018 season, but he said the recovery is ahead of schedule. It hasn’t been decided yet whether he will be ready for spring workouts.
Williams said he wasn’t concerned with scheme when he evaluated and pursued Collins. He looks for baseline talent and then leaves it to coaches to figure how to best use each player.
“When we look at players, we look at talent," Williams said. “I talked to him a little bit yesterday about his play because I read stuff where everybody’s talking about a box player. The thing he told me was the fact that’s the scheme they ran. If you’re on a team and that’s the scheme they ran, that’s what you play. So it all depends on what we do with him. I don’t think you can just put him in a corner and say he’s just a box guy. If you look at him early in his career, that’s not true.
"Hopefully we can take advantage of all the abilities he has,” Williams said.