The Chicago Bears boasted the league’s best defense last year, largely due to the acquisition of generational talent Khalil Mack.
However, their defensive backfield was also one of the best in the NFL, and it was the safety play that really stood out for the Bears for the first time in a long time. Eddie Jackson and Adrian Amos formed one of the best young duos in football.
Jackson will likely be a staple on this defense for years to come. Amos, on the other hand, is set to hit free agency this offseason if a deal is not made with the Bears. Many people are calling for Amos’ head, more or less, but I ultimately like Amos and wouldn’t mind him coming back. If you haven’t checked out my take on that check it out here.
Nonetheless, if Amos leaves, then who replaces him? Deon Bush is currently on the roster, but I think we all know he is not the answer. Tyrann Mathieu is a name that has floated around and would possibly be a good fit, and The Loop Sports’ Jack Soble took a look at that possibility as well here.
At the end of the day, though, there is only one player that provides a true upgrade at the safety position if Amos walks: Landon Collins.
Collins is a true strong safety who can roam the box and provide excellent run support, but is also a guy who can drop into coverage and stay with tight ends and backs. However, while he is capable of dropping into coverage, it is not where he is at his best.
He is a hard-hitting safety by nature who makes a living bringing down ballcarriers. He has amassed 100 tackles in three out of his four years in the league. The only exception is last year, and he definitely would have had 100 if he hadn’t appeared in just 12 games due to a shoulder injury.
In his first three seasons in the league, he finished fourth, second, and third in tackles amongst safeties. Last season where he only played 12 games, he still finished ninth. The point? Collins will be around the ball all game long regardless of where he is lining up. His reactions to plays as they develop is superb. This is on full display here when he blows up a screen pass:
— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) August 22, 2017
After the Browns shift to a trips set, it looks as though they’ll have the screen blocked nicely. Collins had other plans as he shot through the two blocks and made the tackle for a loss. This is Landon Collins at his best.
His ability to break on passes and meet a receiver is also something that sets him apart from many. Those short crossing routes that almost all offenses run these days need to be aware if Collins is on the field. Take this short drag across the middle the Saints ran as an example:
— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) July 25, 2017
The Giants were in a zone defense, in which Collins was able to read the eyes of Drew Brees, break on the receiver as the ball was released, and run through him once he got there. Receivers must have their head on a swivel when playing against Collins.
Okay, so he can tackle. Adrian Amos has excelled in tackling as well from the safety position, so what makes Landon Collins such a big upgrade? It’s simple: he takes the ball away much more.
Collins has eight career interceptions in four seasons, compared to Amos’ three. He also has 32 pass deflections to Amos’ 19. That means Collins is better than Amos at his best trait, which is tackling, and in something Amos has struggled with in his career – intercepting the football. He has very good ball skills, as this pick-six will illustrate:
— New York Giants (@Giants) August 26, 2017
This looks very similar to the pick-six Eddie Jackson had this season to seal the win against Detroit. He breaks hard on the flat route, is able to undercut it, and walk into the endzone. This is something we simply do not see with Amos.
Much like Eddie Jackson, if Collins gets the ball in his hands, he wants to score, regardless if he is in America or the UK:
Happy Birthday @TheHumble_21
Who remembers this Pick Six at Twickenham stadium for the @Giants?
— NFL UK (@NFLUK) January 10, 2019
Imagine a defensive backfield that can make plays like this one on top of what we have already seen from Jackson. This defense could outscore some of the league’s offenses.
Landon Collins is one of the best young safeties in football. The three-time Pro-Bowler would immediately put the Bears defense over the top. They would then have a premier pass rush, a lock-down corner, and the league’s best safety tandem. It would be downright scary for opposing offenses.
The issue, like anything else in life, comes with money. With him being such a superb player, the money will need to be there in order to snag him in free agency. On top of this, the Giants can still place the franchise tag on him.
The Bears clearly do not have the money to offer Collins a long-term, high-salary contract. However, they do have a team that should be in contention next season, which can be ideal for big name free agents. A deal similar to what the Texans gave Tyrann Mathieu is somewhat plausible. Honey Badger received $7 million with $4.5 million guaranteed.
It will take more than $7 million, but grabbing Collins for a year or two, while this defense is playing its best ball, can make them a Super Bowl favorite going into the next couple seasons.
Follow Charlie on Twitter (@CharlieS336) for more Bears news and opinion