Redskins safety Landon Collins is open to wearing No. 21; Should he?

Landon Collins was introduced yesterday at Redskins Park, and what came with the electric smile and proven track record was something we haven’t seen from a Redskins addition before: Die-hard fandom.

Landon Collins handled the media very well on his first day with the Washington Redskins. Why wouldn’t he? After four years in New York, he’s finally home. At a place where he has dreamt of playing; the place where he dreamt of cementing his legacy has finally found its way into his life. He truly couldn’t be happier. Collins went onto 106.7’s Grant and Danny ahead of his official Ashburn presser with excitement and all smiles. He opened up about the process of getting here, but also stirred up a question that has never really needed to be asked: Should the No. 21 be worn again?

During his press conference, Collins opened with a line that spoke to Redskins fans far and wide: “This is a place I’ve always dreamed of being at, because of my favorite player [Sean Taylor].” Mission complete. With that one sentence, he won over the fanbase, and became a fan favorite. While discussing the free agency process, Collins had said there were numerous teams interested in his services, but when Washington came into play, he pounced, stating that he “had to be here”, and admitting it was a day filled with tears and joy.

Collins had always wanted to follow in the footsteps of Sean Taylor, and now he has that chance. It is well-known that Collins is a die-hard Sean Taylor fan, dating back to his high school days, when he first discovered the hard-hitting Taylor. From that moment on, his blood was Burgundy and Gold. Though after today, the question is, will there be more than just smacking heads in a Redskins uniform that links him to the late Redskins safety?

Collins went to the University of Alabama and wore No. 26, the same number Taylor wore at the University of Miami, then proceeded to follow Taylor’s path in the NFL, where he donned No. 21 with the Giants. Along with the number came the results; Collins racked up 125 tackles, four sacks, and five interceptions in his age 22 season, which ended with him making his first of three Pro Bowls and becoming a first-team All-Pro.

Collins has yet to get back to that elite threshold, but still manages to be one of the most effective defensive players in the league. He ended 2018 with 96 tackles, which led the Giants, and he did it in only 12 games. Simply put, he is a tremendous player and a great get for Washington. But does the play justify allowing him the honor of wearing No. 21? Something that hasn’t been done since 2007, when Sean Taylor tragically lost his life due to a home invasion incident?

During his radio interview with Grant and Danny, the question was asked: Would Collins even want to wear No. 21 here? Wouldn’t he rather allow the number to rest with Sean? Surprisingly, no. Landon Collins said it would be an honor to wear No. 21, acknowledging the big shoes he would have to fill in order to justify the decision, Collins said “if the family [The Taylors] would allow me to, there wouldn’t be a day where I step on the field that it wouldn’t be the same. There would be a duplicate.”

Wow. A duplicate? I like the guy, but come on. There is no way, right? Wrong. Collins, while not an exact clone of Sean, because today’s league doesn’t allow for it, can duplicate the impact Taylor had. Taylor was a game changer, simply put. His heavy hits put fear into wideouts that caused them to be hesitant of wandering into his cross hairs, and his speed and ball skills caused him to be a menace in defending the pass and stuffing the run; an all-around player.

Collins is similar; he gets the rep of being a box safety, but he’s much more than that. He can play the deep third of the field, as well as come down and assist with tight ends breaking outside or over the middle. While he doesn’t specialize in this, he surely can be effective in man to man. Plus, his speed and tackling ability will allow him to get into the backfield and disrupt the run game as well as move the pocket around.

Collins is your do-it-all safety, and will show week in and week out why he instantly becomes the teams best defensive player. So, does this justify the use of the unofficially retired No. 21? My vote is yes.

If anyone should wear No. 21 again, it should be Collins. Not only is he a quality enough player, but his passion and love for Sean Taylor and how he played the game is something no other player has matched. We’ve heard Su’a Cravens and D.J. Swearinger praise the Redskins legend, and even take on his rookie year number of 36. But neither has matched the passion and play of Collins when it comes to trying to carry on the legacy that is Sean Taylor. It’s been over a decade since the loss of the Redskins safety, and the team has yet to officially retire the number, which means they most likely never will. If that’s the case, who’s better to finally continue greatness wearing it than Landon Collins? Why not give it to a guy who is on track to go down as one of the greats to play the position, in a league that is taking away what safeties do best: hit hard and hit fast?

The argument against allowing someone to use No. 21 is fear of Taylor being forgotten. The last one to wear that number was great, so that’s how we associate the number – with greatness. The fear of someone wearing that number and not having a good or even productive impact, outweighs the idea that someone who truly embodies and builds their game around what that number represents could continue the legacy.

Next: Landon Collins, and the convergence of legacy

We want No. 21 to die with Sean and his legacy. I get it. But what if the next guy is the right guy? What if Collins is the guy to finish out his remaining years in D.C., and become one of the all-time greats? Are we worried he surpasses Sean’s legacy? Taylor is forever in Redskins fans’ hearts, and has forever changed the game for the better. Without him, there is no Landon Collins. There is no D.J. Swearinger. The No. 21 is a sacred number in Washington, and always will be, but to pretend it’s untouchable just doesn’t make sense anymore. It’s time we remember Sean for what he did, not what number he wore. Giving Collins No. 21 doesn’t erase Sean Taylor; it simply allows his legacy to grow through what he created: The next generation of ballers.

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