Packers.com had a piece on the play of rookie FS Nick Collins this season. Although the coaches are somewhat reserved (Jim Bates says Collins's big play ability is "starting to show up") the article claims Collins's has a "mastery of the plays". Collins has played well for a rookie and has continued to improve as the season goes on, but how does he compare to other free safeties?
Collins has 83 tackles, 1 interception, and 8 pass defenses. Last season's FS Darren Sharper has 47 tackles, 9 interceptions (2 returned for TDs), and 16 pass defenses in 2 fewer games played for Minnesota in 2005 and he was elected to the Pro Bowl. Obviously Collins has been a step down in every way, except he has more tackles than Sharper which Mike Sherman claims "has eliminated the long run." That sounds really good, except the Packers are ranked 23rd against the run in 2005, the same ranking they held in 2004. However, the pass defense is improved from 2004 and Collins is the only new starter in the secondary. The pass defense would probably have been even better with Sharper starting in 2005 and Collins learning as the 3rd safety in Jim Bates new (to the Packers) defense, but that isn't a slam-dunk argument. There is no clear-cut answer.
FS Bob Sanders made the Pro Bowl for the AFC. His stats of 92 tackles, 1 interception, and 4 pass defenses don't compare as favorably to Collins. In case of Sanders and fellow AFC Pro Bowl FS John Lynch, they both have a reputation as big hitters. Their mere presence in the secondary has an impact that can't be measured by statistics, apparently.