New England Patriots fans were shocked to find out LB Jamie Collins had been traded to the Cleveland Browns and were probably a little surprised by the negative stories about Collins from former team executive Michael Lombardi.
But Collins gave an interesting quote to The Improper Bostonian back in September that will raise all the eyes with 20/20 hindsight. Collins was asked whether he’d rather watch college or professional football:
“Neither,” Collins said. “I didn’t grow up watching football, and I still don’t. Me and Chandler Jones have talked about this since I first got up here. I never watched football. I never thought I’d be here, and I’d rather play video games. I don’t really want to watch it.”
Now every player is different, but I feel like “loves watching game tape” is #2 on head coach Bill Belichick’s list of requirements for draft prospects, right below “three cone drill.” The fact that Collins groups Chandler Jones into the mix is curious as well.
But now Collins is with the Browns and he played every single snap on Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys. I went to the tape to see how he was playing with his new team, knowing full well that he’s still a work in progress and is just scratching the surface of his new playbook.
Collins was credited with 8 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, and 1 quarterback hit. I was actually surprised by that high tackle total because it seemed like the Cowboys were doing everything in their power to run their play away from Collins because it was clear from the start that Collins was the best player on that defense.
The Browns predominantly used Collins is a different way than he was used by the Patriots. While Belichick kept Collins towards the middle of the field and off the line, the Browns frequently used Collins on the line of scrimmage in a 3-4 outside linebacker role, in addition to snaps as a 4-2 linebacker and 4-3 outside linebacker.
Collins seemed more comfortable against the run than against the pass, which makes sense because it’s a little more straight forward (literally).
Q1 DAL-2-8-CLV 26 (6:53) (Shotgun) D.Prescott pass deep right to J.Witten for 26 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
Collins is lined up on the far side of the field between the hashmarks and the 20-yard-line marker as one of the two stand-up linebackers. His job is to get a deep enough drop into coverage to deter Cowboys QB Dak Prescott from throwing to TE Jason Witten.
Collins bites on a crossing route, allowing Witten to gain separation behind him. The Cowboys ran a nice route with their wide receiver to occupy the free safety, leaving Witten wide open.
It’s hard to blame someone for messing up on their first day on the job, so Collins will probably be better down the road. But this break down in coverage definitely deserves scrutiny since it was Collins trying to read the quarterback that allowed Witten to get open, not a misunderstanding of the play call.
Q2 DAL-1-10-CLV 36 (12:46) A.Morris left tackle to CLV 34 for 2 yards (E.Ogbah; J.Collins).
Collins (#51) is the linebacker on the left side of the screen creeping up between the left tackle and left guard. Collins does an exceptional job of taking on the blocker and shedding the hold for a nice stop.
Collins’ role on this play is pretty simple as the Cowboys wanted to run between the gap between the left tackle and left guard. Collins just had to plug the hole and he did his job by preventing the guard from sealing the lane.
Q2 DAL-1-10-CLV 40 (5:03) E.Elliott left tackle to CLV 43 for -3 yards (J.Collins).
Collins was even better on this play as he lined up against 3-time All Pro LT Tyron Smith and shed him far more easily than anyone should be able to, and made a tackle on NFL rushing leader RB Ezekiel Elliott. I don’t think anyone could play this more perfectly than Collins did, and it came against two of the best at their positions in the league.
For the rest of the game, it seemed like the Cowboys decided to run to the opposite side of Collins. And why not? The Cowboys offensive line is good enough to take on all the other Browns defenders, so it was just easier to go away from Collins.
Collins will keep improving for the Browns as he adjusts to the defense. He’s still a great player, with a lot of natural talent, that sometimes makes the bad decision due to his instincts. Perhaps watching more game tape might help.