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Which Texans' Rookie Is Drawing Praise From Defense in Camp?

Rookie receiver Nico Collins is making an immediate impact with the Texans' offense

HOUSTON -- Whenever a rookie can transition from the college ranks to the pros in an instant, they're going to garner attention. Two weeks into Houston Texans training camp and Nico Collins is the talk of practice. 

Collins, the team's third-round pick out of Michigan, continues to splash daily. The 6-foot-4 receiver has only shown growth in route-running, understanding coverages and catching the ball at its highest point. 

He's still young, and plenty could change when facing another team, but early indications suggests he's in the running for first-team reps against Jacksonville in Week 1. Houston added eight receivers this offseason, with likely Collins and former Jaguars starter Chris Conley fighting for Will Fuller's old spot.

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Texans cornerback Bradley Roby might not like Collins' alma mater, but he's glad he only has to face him in practice instead of on Sundays during the season. 

“He's a Michigan guy, man, so I already don't like him,” Roby, an Ohio State alum, said Wednesday. “But I think he's going to be a good receiver. He's tall, big, uses his body well, can go up and get the ball. So, I just want to keep motivating him and keep working with him and try to pick and choose where I can really go against him and see how he runs his routes and help him if possible. So, I look forward to helping him mature.”

Defensive backs aren't the only names taking notice. Veteran wideout and All-Pro return man Andre Roberts gave the 215-pound target praise for his adaptability to learn a new offense. 

“Nico is a really good athlete,” Roberts said Friday. “He’s going to be special when he gets it together. He’s coming to a new team, new area, new offense, so this guy has a lot to learn. But he’s a really good athlete, and if he keeps his head down, he’s going to be special.”

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Conley, Collins and Roberts continue to work the outside. Texans coach David Culley has been keen on keeping the defense on its toes though with his formations. Multiple times, Collins has actually taken reps inside the slot, potentially competing for playing time with veterans Anthony Miller and Keke Coutee. 

Roberts, best known for his kickoff skills in Buffalo, says it's his role to be the voice of reason for the younger pass-catcher. So far, he's built a rapport with Collins and Miller. 

"I talk to Nico a lot. He's a drafted player," Roberts said. "And Anthony is just coming here. Talk to those guys a lot about just being a pro, but they'll get it. They'll come along.”

Collins elected to opt-out due to the COVID-19 pandemic last fall. In his prior two seasons under Jim Harbaugh in Ann Arbor, he recorded 1,361 yards and 13 touchdowns. 

Fans and teammates are starting to notice how dynamic Collins can be in the next level. That, plus time to learn, might make Nick Caserio's decision to move up in the draft a shrewd one. 

Said Coutee: “Nico, big strong guy, able to go up at the point of catch and make tough catches, big guy, brings a lot to this team.”  

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