Over the next couple of weeks, we're taking a closer look at several of the Detroit Lions' key offseason additions. We will watch tape from three 2019 games for each player and provide a brief scouting report to better familiarize you with the new additions prior to the 2020 season.
Player: Linebacker Jamie Collins
Age: 30 (Oct. 20)
Measurables: 6-foot-3, 255 pounds, 33 3/4-inch arms, 4.64-second 40-yard dash, 41.5-inch vertical, 139-inch broad jump
Experience: Collins had a fascinating college career at Southern Mississippi, starting as a defensive back, moving to linebacker his sophomore season, before finishing his time at the school as an edge rusher. He recorded 39.5 tackles for loss his final two seasons, earning first-team All-Conference USA as a senior.
Collins went on to deliver a chart-busting performance at the combine and was selected in the second round by the New England Patriots. After playing a rotational role as a rookie, he started 15 games his second season, recording 115 tackles for the Super Bowl winners that year.
After another solid season in 2015, Collins was traded to the Cleveland Browns in 2016, at least in part because he was in the final year of his contract and the Patriots didn't want to pay the market rate to retain his services. He missed most of the 2017 season with a knee injury, before recording 104 tackles and 4.0 sacks in his only full season with the Browns in 2018.
Collins returned to the Patriots on a modest, one-year deal last season, stuffing the box score with 85 tackles, a career-high 7.0 sacks, three forced fumbles and three interceptions in 16 games.
Tape Studied: at Dolphins (Sept. 15), at New York Jets (Oct. 21), vs. Dallas (Nov. 24)
Note: Collins is No. 58 in clips below.
► The first thing you have to do when watching Collins is pause the tape and locate him. The Patriots shuffled him into a number of different spots within their defensive front. His most popular alignment in the games we watched was on the line of scrimmage, typically manning the right edge of the formation. But he also played off-ball, both as an outside and inside linebacker. Additionally, he saw plenty of reps on the inside of the line, as a standup rusher over the center and guard.
Collins is obviously a versatile piece for any coordinator because of his comfort level lining up at any of these spots.
► Collins is a better blitzer than edge rusher. The majority of the pass-rush pressure he generated came when he would time the snap and slice through the interior of the offensive line. His ability to quickly accelerate, combined with his long stride, allowed him to disrupt the pocket in a hurry when opponents didn't anticipate him coming on the rush.
► In zone coverage, Collins moves fluidly and shows good awareness of the assignments that traverse through his area of responsibility, smoothly switching from one to another.
The Patriots also regularly looked to Collins to handle running backs and tight ends in man coverage on third downs. The veteran linebacker was strong enough to handle the physicality of tight ends in space and quick enough to deal with most running backs, although Le'Veon Bell gave Collins trouble in a couple of spots.
► Because of his overall fluidity dropping into his zone coverage responsibilities, Collins can be trusted to line up on the line of scrimmage, or feign a blitz coming from the second level, before retreating to his zone. This allows the defense to tax the line's ability to identify the rush and can open up opportunities for his teammates to get after the quarterback.
► Collins stays within the scheme when defending the run, placing a priority on setting and maintaining his edge. When unblocked on the backside, his long stride and closing burst provides him an opportunity to impact plays going away from him.
Presumably because of his speed and length, opposing offenses almost never challenged the Patriots with outside runs to Collins' side.
► For as well as Collins gets after the quarterback on the blitz, he offers little rushing the passer from an edge alignment. He doesn't have an elite first step on the snap, which causes him to get swallowed up by opposing offensive tackles (or tight ends in many cases). He also lacks a single dominant pass rush move that could give blockers trouble, including the inability to bend around the edge.
His struggles extended to stunts, where he was largely ineffective working games with other Patriots linemen and linebackers.
► Inconsistent hand usage that limits Collins as an edge rusher also shows up when defending the run. Both on the line and in the second level, he lacks urgency when blocked and surprisingly struggles to shed for a linebacker with his size, length and athleticism.
► Collins occasionally lacks decisiveness in the open field, allowing the offensive player to make the first move. This can lead to balance issues and missed tackles.
How he fits in Detroit:
More than any other free agent addition we've studied the past two weeks, how the Lions will use Collins involves much more guesswork. There's a reasonable assumption, given the offseason roster moves, he'll see a good chunk of snaps on the left side of the line, where Devon Kennard previously lined up.
Collins could also eat into Jarrad Davis' and/or Christian Jones' playing time on passing downs, where the newcomer is a more proven entity in both man and zone coverage.
It seems highly likely the Lions will embrace Collins' versatility, similar to the way the Patriots did in 2019, deploying him in a number of spots up front. He's simply not good enough at any one thing to merit a static role.