"Every time he's around the ball, we always say, 'That's a fine. That's a fine,'" cornerback Prince Amukamara said Friday. "Because so many times, it looks like it could have been a big hit or a big collision. He's definitely a guy who loves to bang and take someone's head off. Can't wait to see him pull the trigger in a game."
The hitting in Giants training camp so far has been minimal, so the impression Collins is making on his teammates is speculative. They watch a play and assume that, in a real game, he would finish it off violently. They won't know for sure until they see him against an opponent. The Giants' joint practices with the Bengals in Cincinnati next Tuesday and Wednesday likely won't feature much hitting, but the preseason opener there next Friday night will.
Safety is a difficult position to evaluate without contact, so the start of the preseason games will place the Giants' coaches into a new phase of evaluation. In the meantime, they continue to mix and match in practice to try to determine who from their group of young candidates has what it takes to start at safety. Collins, Bennett Jackson, Mykkele Thompson and Cooper Taylor all have seen action with the first team in practice. Jeromy Miles, the veteran the Giants signed right before camp started, worked with the first team in Friday's walkthrough and could be out there again Saturday.
"Jeromy's really opened my eyes with how physical he is out there," Amukamara said.
Camp's been a bigger adjustment for Miles than he expected. He worked with new Giants coordinator Steve Spagnuolo last year in Baltimore, where Spagnuolo was coaching defensive backs. When he arrived here and got the playbook, he was surprised. "Coach, this is different," he told safeties coach Dave Merritt when he realized a Spagnuolo-coordinated defense isn't the same thing as a Dean Pees-coordinated defense with Spagnuolo as a position coach.
"For Jeromy, some of the techniques he understands, some of the words, some of the lingo," Merritt said. "But as far as overall package, it's completely different."
But he's getting there, and as Miles' knowledge of the defense catches up with that physicality that's caught his teammates' eye, he's likely to get more chances.
Which isn't to say Jackson won't. Jackson ran with the first team at safety for four practices in a row before Friday and made a strong impression. He was drafted last year in the sixth round out of Notre Dame as a cornerback and is trying to make the transition to safety. So far, his coverage skills have shown well and he's quickly picking up the ability to understand the terminology and get everyone lined up where they need to be. The Giants are looking for a free safety who can run the coverages from the back end, and if Jackson shows he can be that, he has as good a chance to start as anyone does.
"He's always talked to me a lot about being physical, and he told me one of his goals was to be a starter this year, wherever it's at -- nickel, corner, safety," Amukamara said. "And it looks like he's on his way. He's doing all the right things."
Lots still to figure out for the Giants at safety, but so far, the performances of their young guys have offered hope that they might have some decent options from which to choose.