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Film Review: Earl Thomas vs. Landon Collins

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Film Review: Earl Thomas vs. Landon Collins

There’s been a ton of conversation in the Packers’ community as to whether or not Earl Thomas or Landon Collins should truly be the top end safety that the Packers and Brian Gutekunst should covet in free agency. Today, in the film room, we take a look at the best and worst graded players (per PFF) for each player and see exactly what their strengths and limitations are.

The first thing that should be noted is that these are two completely different safeties. Comparing the two is almost the equivalent of comparing a running back and a fullback or an inside linebacker and outside linebacker. Sure they are playing generally the same position but they have completely different roles within the defense.

Collins is the true box safety. He’s nearly always at or around the line of scrimmage and that’s where he ultimately makes his impact. He’s a very sound tackler, he’s assignment sure, and he’s always around the football. While it’s easy to argue that Thomas is more valuable because he can play the deep safety position, it can also be argued that Collins may have more value because he’s ultimately around the play much more often than Thomas is.

On the flip side, Thomas is that true single high safety who can do a little bit of everything. His movement skills are off the charts and he still has the ability to get sideline to sideline. He’s also a sound tackler and absolutely flies to the football. He can be over aggressive, and because he’s playing deep he can go multiple plays in a row without seeing action, but his value on the back end of the defense is immeasurable.

One thing that both of these safeties have in common is that they are aggressive. Neither player lets the play come to them, rather they are the ones that generally seek out the action and are constantly attacking. This would be an incredible upgrade from what the Packers safeties have showed on tape over the course of the past two seasons. It should go without saying that both of these safeties would come in and immensely help Green Bay’s defense.

The major concern with Thomas is his age and durability. In regards to age, it should be noted that the truly great athletic safeties played well into their 30’s. In fact there are many fans already pining for Eric Weddle and he just turned 34. Thomas should have a high end three years left in him and should be better than league average for the next five. As far as durability that’s definitely something that any teams’ medical staff would have to weigh in on. Michael Cohen of The Athletic had a fantastic article and a piece of that was a top defensive coordinator questioning Thomas’ frame and whether or not late in his career he will need to change the way he plays to compensate – that’s something that absolutely needs to be vetted.

Michael Cohen's Article: https://theathletic.com/856202/2019/03/07/which-defensive-players-should...

As for Landon Collins it’s quite the opposite. He’s only 25 years old and has played in 59 of a possible 64 games in his career. The question mark is just how valuable a box safety with coverage limitations is worth in 2019. As a general rule of thumb, box safeties can be found on the cheap and aren’t of major value, but Collins is one of the best at it. As Aaron Nagler noted this week on Twitter, it’s also not difficult to see Mike Pettine using Collins for what he’s best at and limiting some of those one-on-one coverage concerns. All of that said, when a team is paying $10 million plus per year for a safety, they should really be a truly complete safety.

Whether or not Brian Gutekunst even considers a top end safety will remain to be seen. While the injury concerns are legitimate, the player that helps the team the most is unquestionably Earl Thomas. His movement skills are elite and he’s exactly what the back end of the defense needs. Add Earl Thomas and Green Bay could easily play Josh Jones in an aggressive box safety role next to him. Add Landon Collins and he takes away from Josh Jones’ usefulness and Green Bay still has a massive hole on the roster at the other safety spot.

Without further ado, here are the best and worst games, per Pro Football Focus, from Earl Thomas and Landon Collins in 2018. Decide for yourself!

Landon Collins’ Best Game

Earl Thomas’ Best Game

Landon Collins’ Worst Game

Earl Thomas’ Worst Game

__________________________

Andy is a graduate of UW-Oshkosh and owns & operates the Pack-A-Day Podcast. Andy has taken multiple courses in NFL scouting and appears weekly on 107.5 The Fan in Green Bay to breakdown film. This past season he was an analyst on Green Bay Nation on WFRV TV in Green Bay. Andy grew up in Green Bay and is a lifelong season ticket holder; follow him on Twitter at @sconniesports.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (40) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

TXCHEESE's picture

Sorry, Thomas was a great safety, but breaking your leg twice in two seasons should be setting off all kinds of alarms. No way do you sign this guy to a contract with a bunch of guaranteed dollars.
Collins is a really solid player and still very young with no significant injury history. A really good chess piece for Pettine to utilize. He's got my vote.

CAG123's picture

He didn't break his leg twice in two seasons he broke it twice in three seasons and how can it send of alarms when the first was literally caused by big Kam Chancelor slamming into his leg helmet first? Prior to injuring his leg this year he came out like a man possessed and grabbed 3 picks and 5 defended passes in 4 games that's a seasons worth of production for most safeties.

Rak47's picture

Collins is a box safety, his strength is against the run, he is not a single high safety and he is no better in coverage than what GB currently has. So go ahead an pay him 10 million +, so he can battle Jones for box safety duties and you still need a single high safety. A complete waste of money and resources.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

Just because he is not a single high safety does not make him a waste of money. If Pettine wants a guy that can dominate the middle of the field then Collins would be a great fit. His coverage is adequate deep. If they got him they'd be set at Strong Safety who is a young and dominant seam and curl to flat defender. He can make the middle of the field a no go for opposing offenses.

That said. IDK what Pettine wants. If he doesn't want that and wants other things then it's not a good use of money.

jannes bjornson's picture

if they move on Collins then the FS comes from the draft with a high pick.
When Thomas played at Texas his play stood out above everyone as a
next level player. Which safety from this draft class has that ability?

holmesmd's picture

Uumm...Adderley?

Richard Smith's picture

I'm noticing more and more that fan's don't care about the nuances of positions, present roster players and player they want. However, they will be the first one's to complain when the player doesn't work out and we lose players like Kenny Clarke, because GB made a bad personnel decision. Then there is the Antonio Brown crap. I want everyone that wants Brown in GB to ask themselves this. Have you ever suffered through working with someone you can't stand? It effects your concentration and productivity. We are humans, not robots and culture matters in the end. If you say it doesn't and we should all be professionals, you are ignorant to reality. I'll get off my soap box now. Thank you!

Jonathan Spader's picture

When has GB lost a Kenny Clark type player because of a bad personnel decision?

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Other than Richard Smith doesn't like AB, I have no idea what he is trying to say.

Old School's picture

We already have two box safeties with coverage limitations....Brice and Jones.

This defense NEEDS a savvy and sound safety more than it needs anything else. That guy makes Jackson and Alexander and King and Jones and Brice and anybody we might draft a better defender.

Woodson made Tramon and Shields and Collins better in the meeting rooms, on the practice field, and ultimately in the games.

The arguments against Thomas are age and injury history, but I’m not seeing a good alternative.

Bure9620's picture

The Safety market was incredibly depressed last offseason and there will be several on the market again this year. LaMarcus Joyner, Eric Weddle, Kareem Jackson, Darien Stewart, Glover Quin, Kurt Coleman, Chris Conte, Tre Boston, George Iollka to name a few. There is no reason to pay a major injury riddled vet on the wrong side of 30 $13-14 mil per year. This is not a Charles Woodson situation. The game has changed, corners are gold, safety's are not. If Thomas will be under $8 mil a year then fine. No more. We can get solid production for significantly less with the way the safety market has plunged.

Old School's picture

Weddle is already 34 years old. Tre Boston hardly fits the "savvy" kind of vet we need, although I'd be happy to get Boston and he's probably half the cost of Thomas. It's still better than a rookie, or a UDFA, or a 36 year old CB playing out of position.

Bure9620's picture

Weddle would be a one year rental, but he can still play. We would have to draft a FS in the top 4 rounds to develop

CheesyTex's picture

"...I'm not seeing a good alternative".

IMO Eric Weddle, at half the cost or less than either of the two, is the right answer for the next couple years. He can still play, is a great field general, and (hopefully) a Woodson-like leader for the group of young safties Gute will put together.

CheesyTex's picture

Guess the Rams thought as much of Weddle as I did -- they just signed him to a 2 year deal.

CAG123's picture

One whiffs on tackles and the other is still lost on assignments and Collins coverage limitations are clearly exaggerated and no where close to what Brice and Jones have going on.

jannes bjornson's picture

Maybe Stewart or Quin from the list above, but Collins can take care of the short game on a four year deal and is the better blitzer.

KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

Based on this great article why would we want Collins? We would essentially be giving up on Jones and Brice as you say. My hope are these players can continue to contribute and not wastedd.

Do not know what Thomas would cost and whether that would upset the whole compensation plan to the defensive side of the team. However, if he is healthy and not considered a health risk landing him would certainly solidify the defense and free Gute up significantly in the draft allowing him to focus on other needs and maybe take a luxury pick somewhere along the way.

However, the same could be true if the Pack picked up a very good OL.

jannes bjornson's picture

I would let both go and use the money on someone else. Cut bait.

Christian Roussel's picture

I absolutely love Collins and i still think Thomas is gonna end up in Dallas. But for the sake of offseason talk, i think Thomas would be the better addition because of the impact he would have on our young corners King Alexander and Jackson. Those kids never had appropriate safety that would have given them the confidence to play freely and aggressively as they should.

jannes bjornson's picture

The 49rs might be in the bidding as well as the Jets.

Skip greenBayless's picture

The choice is obvious. After all the dust settles it's Earl Thomas for a fair market price or bust. He can be every bit the difference maker that Reggie White and Charles Woodson were in years past. As long as you don't severely overpay like they would have with Mack it's worth the roll of the dice IMPer and PrO.

Dash

PatrickGB's picture

It probably won’t happen. But I agree that Thomas is what we need. It’s kinda fun to think about possibilities and unlikely as it is, I think that Thomas is the better short term answer.

Skip greenBayless's picture

Absolutely Patrick.

Dash

cheesehead1's picture

Concerned about Thomas’ injuries the last couple of years, plus his age. Hope Gute is very prudent. Jimmy Graham was a big disappointment IMO.

BamaPackFan's picture

Broken leg is much better than Knee damage. Easier to heal, almost natural.

CAG123's picture

He's 30 not 35 and was still playing at a high level before the injury.

Packer Fan's picture

Gute only has the ability to make one big splash in free agency. The other signings have to be more to the bargain side. So is Thomas worth all that money and miss on a edge rusher? That is what Gute has to figure out. Me, I would pass on Thomas and spend more money on a edge rusher.

scullyitsme's picture

Earl Thomas is a generational player at his position, you don’t pass on that lightly. Especially with it being a glaring need. I’ll be happy with either, or maybe 2 of the lesser guys( Weddle/ Boston. But you give me earl Thomas in the That backfield and Its the biggest improvement of all the options. Dudes a stud. We don’t get to say that about packer defensive players very often.

Archie's picture

I say sign 'em both - they are different players and we need both.

KeepErMovin's picture

If choosing between the 2 Thomas is the clear winner. Both will cost between 11 and 14 million per year. GB already has a box safety with coverage limitations in Jones. Sure, Collins is better than Jones, but he's not $11/yr better. On top of that "Box Safety" is WAY more replaceable than a guy who can play single high.

jannes bjornson's picture

Jones is a liability.

Lare's picture

For that much money I wouldn't sign either Thomas or Collins. I'd sign Adrian Amos.

LambeauPlain's picture

As a rookie Giant, Collins played FS and did a good job. Since then he has been SS due to his instincts and tackling prowess.

But he is the type of player Pettine covets...able to play well in different spots and be a threat from many different looks.

I will take the 25 year old who's production to date mirrors Thomas's first 4 years in the NFL.

By the time Collins is 30 he will be admired the way Thomas is today. And while some DBs play well into their mid 30's, age 30 has more DBs fading than continuing to play at a high level.

Since '61's picture

I like Collins but he is a liability in coverage and the league knows it. Thomas is the better player and would give the Packers what they need at Safety.

Thomas would make Jones a better box safety. While Collins would make Jones redundant and a wasted pick for the Packers. Again, it's a matter of asset management. Why would we have 2 players who can play the same position (box safety).

Thomas will probably cost too much for the Packers but if we're choosing between Collins and Thomas and we're not considering the price then I would take Thomas and let Collins go to another team. We need a player like Thomas. Collins would be a luxury unless we are going to chuck Jones. Thanks, Since '61

PatrickGB's picture

A ball hawking safety is what this team had needed for years. If we were to take Thomas and also draft one for the future it would be a win win. Of course I want an edge rusher with a high pick too.
Edit: or perhaps a lower priced FA like the FS Gipson who was just released?

moco27's picture

That settles it, we need both

MarkinMadison's picture

The safety market is reportedly going to be deep and cheap this year. If you buy that, you can probably get two starting quality safeties for the price of either one of these guys. Given how thin the Packers are at the position, and their limited cap space and plethora of needs, this is probably the way to go.

lou's picture

Lots of great comments, the bad news is we need 2 starting safeties but we have cap money and draft capital on the other hand, it will be fun to see how the position openings are addressed. Based on the huge number of comments last year at this time in favor of paying Morgan Burnett $8M-$10M a year to retain his services, where are your posts about bringing him back, you guys were dead sure he was the ANSWER.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Sign an OLB first. If the price is in the stratosphere for a Houston, Smith, Smith, Barr, Barrett, etc., then shift focus to safety.

HHCD only faintly resembles Earl Thomas. The speed of recognition and his aggressive tackling to limit yardage instead of herding looks nothing like HHCD.

Collins looked good. His bad game didn't look particularly bad. It is just much easier to find an acceptable box safety.

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