The Washington Football Team made a sizeable change on defense over the past two games, moving safety Landon Collins up into the box to play more of a hybrid safety/linebacker role. This was especially evident during Sunday's game against the Chiefs.
On Wednesday, Ron Rivera addressed moving Collins closer to the line of scrimmage, telling reporters he's more of an impact player in that role.
"I think a lot of it's perception and expectations," Rivera said of the many criticisms of Collins' play this season. "But you watch the way he played last week, you watch the things that he did, his physicality, the plays he helped make in the game. And as I said the other day, he has a good role, and the role we used him in is I think something we feel very strongly about his abilities."
"You know, he's a downhill, attacking style of player and we've got to make sure we're putting him in position to have success for us," he said. "A great example was when they ran that reverse. He was down in the box, he saw it coming. He got outside the contain, turned it back inside and was part of the pile-up that helped create the takeaway.
"And those are the things that he flashes and shows that he's capable of doing. That's why, going into last week's game, based on the matchups we felt strongly about playing him up in the box."
It hasn't been a flawless transition. Collins still struggles when he has to drop back into coverage.
But it appears that his new role in the box comes closer to identifying and taking advantage of the things he does well.
Here's the rest of what Rivera had to say about Collins' new role (via Nicki Jhabvala):
"I did have a conversation with him about it and he was very professional about it," Rivera said. "He and I talked about it and one of the things he expressed is he's a safety. He loves playing safety. One of the things I expressed to him is we really believe he’s a downhill player. He’s an impact guy attacking at the line of scrimmage.
"For him, the thing would be completely understanding all the run fits. He’s a bright guy, he understands the game and sees things so I expect him to be able to handle and pick it up quickly. I think based on what we saw, his impact can be attacking the line of scrimmage for us.
"He and I had a conversation last week and we had a conversation again this week, and like I said, he was very professional about it, and he listened."
Washington's in a bit of a bind financially with Collins. While it's true that only $44.5 million of the six-year, $84 million deal he signed in 2019 is guaranteed, the earliest potential 'out' in his contract isn't until after this season. That's a roundabout way of saying they'll probably just have to grin and bear it until the offseason.
Collins had previously bucked at the notion of changing positions from a more traditional safety role, and in the offseason, Washington defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio confirmed that Collins would not be switching positions. It seems things have changed between then and now.