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Texans' Rookie Nico Collins: Small Steps

Houston's season is to the point where two catches for 28 yards is a positive

HOUSTON -- Nico Collins' second game back in the lineup after missing three games on injured reserve with a shoulder injury was mostly a successful one.

The Houston Texans' imposing rookie wide receiver caught two passes for 28 yards, including a 22-yard reception during a 31-5 road loss to the Arizona Cardinals. Collins had one dropped pass on five targets.

Activated from injured reserve-designated for return, Collins caught four passes for 44 yards against the Indianapolis Colts.

In four games, the 6-foot-4, 215-pound third-round draft pick from the University of Michigan has eight receptions for 111 yards on 15 targets.

“I’ve seen progress with him," Texans coach David Culley said. "He had a drop that’s uncharacteristic of him. But, overall, he’s doing exactly what we expected from him. Hopefully as we move forward, he becomes more involved in doing the things we want him to do. As we get better offensively, all across the board people we start to play better and be better for us.”

When the Texans maneuvered to draft Collins, they had plans for him that involved using his size and athleticism.

Collins emphasized last week that he has fully recovered from the shoulder injury.

He's made steady progress since training camp when Culley was seeking more consistency from the Alabama native.

“I feel like I come out every day and try to get better,” Collins said. “There’s always room for improvement in my game. Every day I come in and try to work on anything I feel I need improvement on. So, that’s the main thing I focus on every day.”

Collins’ improvement has been noted by veteran wide receiver Brandin Cooks, Collins’ mentor.

“I mean, huge, the strides that he made, to be able to miss those games and come out like that and play big in some of those one-on-one situations and make some of those plays, that’s what you expect from him,” Cooks said. “Like I’ve always said, the guy is a great player. He’s continuing to learn. I love playing out there on the field with him and I just look forward to continue to see him get better every single game.”

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Working under Cooks’ tutelage, Collins continues to make advancements in his game.

“I appreciate Brandin a lot,” Collins said. “He’s always been in my corner since day one I got here. Whatever I need, whatever questions I have. He always there to help me out and I really appreciate that. I got him in my room and I’m learning from him every single day. Anything I can need to become a pro like him. I want to be great just like Cooks. So, I look up to him and I’m glad we got him in our room.”

Collins led the Big Ten Conference with a 19.7 average per catch in 2019, finishing with 37 receptions for 729 yards and seven touchdowns.

Collins was named the Wolverines’ Offensive Player of the Year one year after earning the team’s Most Improved Player award when he caught 38 passes for 632 yards and six touchdowns.

He has set his ambitions on making a greater impact with the Texans.

“Hopefully, a big one,” Collins said. “I want to build trust from the offensive coordinator, Coach (Tim) Kelly, my teammates, just everybody. I want them to trust me. So, that’s my goal every day. I want to make sure they believe in me, and I’m doing whatever I can do to get that trust from them.”

After opting out last season, Collins is starting to get up to speed in the NFL. It's been a process acclimating to tougher competition.

“Oh yeah, it’s exactly what I expected,” Collins said. “Everybody is good on this level, so it really comes down to the small details. Some things that I got away with in college, you can’t get away with on this level.

"So, that’s some things I work on every day. Just try to work on my routes, try to give defensive backs no indicators which way I’m breaking, in or out. That’s why I feel like every day there’s room for improvement with my game.”