Landon Collins uses Seattle's Earl Thomas as a motivational force

Even after his success last season, Landon Collins says he can take his game to another level. Rob Carr/Getty Images

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Landon Collins finished with 125 tackles, 4.0 sacks and five interceptions last season. He was named first-team All Pro.

It was a breakout year for the New York Giants safety. He went from spinning rookie to game-changing defender, and perhaps the best safety in the league. The Giants and Collins are under the impression that this season will only get better.

Defensive backs coach David Merritt believes that right now Collins is at a 7.0. Collins agrees. Merritt believes he can get up to an 8.5 or 9.0 consistently.

“You’re talking always in the running for [Defensive Player of the Year] and constantly making Pro Bowls, things like that,” Merritt said.

That’s a scary thought for the rest of the league. Collins was a difference-maker in his second professional season at what they considered a 7.0. He grew into one of the leaders of the Giants defense, and is under the belief that he can be even better at reading his keys and recognizing play-action passes this year.

Getting better in those areas and taking it to the next level will cement Collins’ place in the conversation as one of the best safeties in the league. He views Seattle’s Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor and Kansas City’s Eric Berry in that category right now.

Collins wants to come after them. He’s friendly with Thomas -- they share an agent, Athletes First’s David Mulugheta -- and will be attending his football camp for kids next week in Texas. Collins also attended last year, and Thomas asked a group of safeties that were helping out as instructors -- including Green Bay’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix -- which of them wanted to take his spot as the league’s best safety.

Collins told Thomas he’s coming after the honor. He then backed it up on the field, while Thomas’ season ended early with a broken leg. Thomas is set to return to the Seahawks this season.

This friendly competition is part of what drives Collins.

“It helps a lot because you know he’s going to bring his all each and every week,” Collins said. “So I have to bring my all because if I’m a step behind, he has that advantage on me. Can’t let that happen.”

Collins is hoping to drop some weight, like he did after his rookie season --

when he played in the 230-pound range. It was too much.

“His first year was not a great year for that,” defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said. “He’ll tell you that.”

The Giants had a maximum weight level for him to play under last year. He navigated it successfully and played in the 215-pound range. The results were encouraging.

Collins said Wednesday that he is currently 218-220 pounds. He wants to get down to around 210 pounds by the start of training camp.

“If I keep my weight down, I can fly,” Collins said.

The Giants see other areas where Collins can also improve, even if he has already made significant strides in his first two years. Continuing to gain experience and watching tape is the vehicle to success.

It won’t take much motivation from Spagnuolo either. He praised Collins for his motivation and desire to improve.

“Landon is one of those guys, I don’t believe he rests on his laurels,” Spagnuolo said. “He’s always coming to me. I don’t have to chase him. That is a pretty good help there.”

Collins has Thomas’ spot atop the safety position chain to track. He has his own desire for greatness to chase.

The young safety explained Wednesday that he plays the game in hopes of earning a gold Hall of Fame jacket.

“My expectations, I want to be a 10,” he said. “I work on being a 10. I feel like I was a 7.0 too [last year]. There are a lot of things I can work on. I nitpick and watch film on myself and there are a few things I know I can be better at. Definitely going to work at it this year and this offseason.”