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Can Rookie WR Nico Collins' Return Mean Texans Boost?

Texans rookie Nico Collins’ return boosts offense

HOUSTON -- The healthy return of Nico Collins provided a boost to the Houston Texans’ offense and a smile to the face of the imposing rookie wide receiver.

Collins returned from a shoulder injury after being activated from injured reserve-designated for return and caught a career-high four passes for 44 yards Sunday during a 31-3 road loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

“Nico did a good job for us, made some big plays for us on Sunday,” Texans offensive coordinator Tim Kelly said. “He’s big, he’s strong and you feel him when he’s on the field. Hopefully, he can continue to improve and go out there and make the plays when the ball finds him on Sunday.”

Collins caught two passes for 39 yards during the first two games of the regular season. Overall, he has six receptions for 83 yards on 10 targets.

When the Texans maneuvered to draft Collins in the third round out of Michigan, they had plans for him that involved using his size and athleticism.

Collins emphasized that he has fully recovered from the shoulder injury. A foot injury that limited him in practice Thursday isn’t expected to impact his availability for a Sunday road game against the Arizona Cardinals.

“Oh, I’m feeling great,” Collins said. “I’m good. I’m great, looking forward to this week against the Cardinals.”

Although the imposing 6-foot-4, 215-pound rookie wasn't a big factor in the passing game during his first NFL regular-season contest, he played 55 snaps and provided some strong run blocking for an offense that piled up 160 yards on the ground and two touchdown runs.

The injury was a difficult setback to endure.

“It was frustrating not being a part of the team because who doesn’t want to be on the field with your teammates,” Collin said. “When I was on IR, the main thing was that I was locked in mentally. I made sure I was locked in even though I wasn’t out there physically going through the routes and running.

“So, I made sure I was engaged, asking questions just like if I was playing. Not being out there those three weeks, it hurt me because I want to be out there. But I’m glad I’m back and looking forward to this week.”

Collins has made steady progress since training camp when coach David Culley was seeking more consistency from the Alabama native.

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“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.”

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.”