August 13, 2018 | 2:03am
Michael Thomas (left) and Landon Collins, during Giants practice in July
Anthony J. Causi
Landon Collins has played next to a different starting safety in each of his first three seasons with the Giants, so a new partner every day in training camp hasn’t been too jarring.
“It’s been the same since I’ve been here, for all three years,” Collins said. “So, it’s normal.”
While those involved in the seemingly wide-open free-safety competition might disagree on the normalcy, with a different candidate rotating in to take first-team snaps each practice, Collins is confident the Giants defense will be better off for it come Week 1 of the regular season.
“All the guys I play next to stand out,” Collins said Sunday after the Giants practiced at their training facility. “I have one guy who makes all the calls, one guy who makes sure we’re all in the right adjustments. All the guys are making great decisions, making great movements and fighting for the job. I’m excited for those guys and I know whatever safety that plays next to me is going to definitely give me the A1.”
Curtis Riley missed Thursday’s preseason opener with a hamstring injury, but he returned to practice Sunday and right away joined the first-team defense. On other days, it has been Darian Thompson, Andrew Adams or Michael Thomas taking snaps as the starting free safety.
While coach Pat Shurmur said the 20-10 loss to the Browns did not provide much clarity in terms of anyone gaining the upper hand in the competition, the picture has been clouded by injuries to the group. Thompson, who started 16 games at the position last year and in Thursday’s opener, exited the game with a hamstring injury and sat out Sunday’s practice.
“It makes the evaluation tougher when guys are getting themselves nicked up,” Shurmur said. “Ideally they’re all healthy all the time and you’d give them the same amount of reps to see what they can do. I’m not so sure that’s the real world, though.”
For now, those involved aren’t getting caught up with the day-to-day snap counts but instead what they do with those snaps.
“Honestly, you can’t try to look ahead to the next preseason game or Game 1, who’s starting,” said Adams, who led all Giants with seven tackles (one for a loss) against the Browns. “You gotta come out to practice the next day and keep continuing to put good stuff on tape. I think that’ll separate guys at the end.”
It was only two seasons ago that Adams made 13 starts at free safety before ceding those duties to Thompson last year. Three years ago, with Collins at free safety as a rookie, Brandon Merriweather was his most common partner at strong safety in the defensive backfield.
While Collins has remained a steady force despite the revolving door next to him, he and his to-be-determined partner will try to shore up the Giants’ pass defense that largely went missing last year, especially against tight ends. The Giants allowed an NFL-high 12 touchdowns to opposing tight ends last season, and two more to the Browns’ David Njoku on Thursday.
“I think we can play a little bit faster,” Collins said. “We didn’t get a game plan against them. We just kind of played in our basic defense and just tried to make plays from that. If we game-planned and just made certain adjustments, it would’ve been a different outcome I would say. Until we get to the regular season, I’ll just play at a normal speed until we can game-plan against somebody.”