HOUSTON -- Rookies are hard to evaluate after just a handful of games. It becomes even harder when a player spends a month on the injured reserve.
The Houston Texans still are looking to see if wide receiver Nico Collins can be an asset for the long-term goals as part of the team's rebuild. He'll be given more time to adjust to NFL speed due to his draft status back in April.
Even in a limited role, Texans coach David Culley is pleased with the early reviews and the effort from the third-round pick. Isn't that what Houston is hoping for from all of its draft picks under general manager Nick Caserio?
“I’ve seen progress with him,” Culley said Monday. “He had a drop yesterday that’s uncharacteristic of him. But overall, he’s doing exactly what we expected from him."
Caserio wanted to add a big-bodied wide receiver for his rookie QB Davis Mills. Instead of waiting for one to fall into Day 3, he traded up with the Carolina Panthers to select Collins 89th overall.
In return, the Panthers received Houston's fourth- and fifth-round selections and a 2022 fourth-round selection. So far, the results have been mixed at best.
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Collins missed three games after being placed on the IR with a shoulder injury following a Week 2 loss to the Cleveland Browns. He returned to practice just in time for a two-game road trip against the Indianapolis Colts and Arizona Cardinals.
Despite losing both games, Collins has shown improvement as a pass-catcher. He's tallied six catches and 72 receiving yards — including a team-high 28 yards in a 31-5 loss to the Cardinals on Sunday.
Caserio and Culley are looking for cornerstone pieces. The team could be looking to move top target Brandin Cooks at the Nov. 2 trade deadline for more draft picks. Collins' development as both a fluid route-runner and pass-catcher could allow Houston be feel content with expanding his reps.
If Cooks stays, it only continues to help Mills or perhaps veteran Tyrod Taylor improve in the passing attack for the second half of the season.
"Hopefully as we move forward, he becomes more involved in doing the things we want him to do," Culley said. "As we get better offensively, all across the board people we start to play better and be better for us.”