Texans’ Maliek Collins: ‘I hope to bring some juice’

Maliek Collins’ cleats toe-tapped the artificial turf with rapid-fire speed, a burst of explosiveness rare for an imposing defensive tackle.

A key new piece of the Texans’ overhauled defense signed to a one-year contract with a maximum value of $6 million, Collins’ athleticism is on full display during a private workout with NFL defensive line coaching specialist Brandon Jordan and four of his teammates: Jordan Jenkins, Brandon Dunn, Jon Greenard and Derek Rivers.

Collins is a blur of mobility, darting across the field.

Although Collins is powerfully built at 6-foot-2, 311 pounds, the former Dallas Cowboys third-round draft pick and projected starter for the Texans reverses directions adeptly while navigating through footwork and pass rushing drills. Later, Collins slams his hands into a blocking sled and tosses it aside in a movement that simulates the controlled violence of the trenches.

“I can move a little bit,” Collins said with a smile in a classic understatement. “That’s my game: penetrate and get off the ball, redirect. I hope to bring a sense of leadership. I hope to bring some juice on the inside, not to say that there wasn’t juice here. There’s a lot of key people that are dogs, too. I’m just trying to come in and contribute.”

Signed to a deal negotiated by agent Drew Rosenhaus that includes a $2 million base salary, $2 million signing bonus and up to $1 million in per-game active roster bonuses with $58,823 per game active along with a $1 million playtime incentive clause, Collins is embracing his new surroundings after a quiet year with the Las Vegas Raiders last season.

Why did he choose the Texans?

“I just needed an opportunity and I thought it was a great opportunity for a team trying to build a team with a fresh start,” Collins said. “And, quite honestly, I needed a fresh start, too, so it was the best place I could have picked. Of course being back in Texas is good. I still live up in Dallas, so I'm good."

Collins recorded 15 tackles and no sacks last season in a dozen games for the Raiders. Before that, he had 14½ sacks in four seasons with the Cowboys, including four sacks in 2019 in his final season in Dallas.

Collins made no excuses about dropping to one quarterback hit and no sacks last season for the Raiders after recording 40 quarterback hits for the Cowboys in four seasons. Collins played 504 defensive snaps last season for Las Vegas, 46 percent of the defensive playing time.

"I just didn't put out no numbers,” Collins said. “It just wasn't a big statistical year for me. I'll bounce back.”

In 73 career games, Collins has 62 tackles, 14½ sacks and one forced fumble. He has 20 tackles for losses.

The Texans have high expectations for Collins in defensive coordinator Lovie Smith’s trademark 4-3 scheme. A former high school heavyweight wresting champion in Kansas City, Mo., who had a perfect 48-0 record as a senior, Collins has run the 40-yard dash in 5.03 seconds.

“He’s as advertised as a person and as a player so far,” Texans defensive line coach Bobby King said. “I’m excited to work with him. Yes, he does have some juice and I’m expecting some good things out of him.”

On film, it’s obvious that Collins’ aggressive style of play and long-arm move frequently opens up pass rushing lanes for his teammates.

“It’s different to help create for other guys rather than help create for yourself,” Collins said. “Sometimes, you have to create for yourself. That’s what I’m going to do.”

Collins is looking forward to playing for Smith after meeting him previously at Illinois and having played for Smith’s friend, Rod Marinelli, last season in Las Vegas.

“They have a rich tradition knowing each other and being friends and seeing that connection,” Collins said. “Meeting Lovie seeing what kind of guy he is, he’s the same guy. I’m happy to play for a coach like that.”

The work with Jordan and the camaraderie with his teammates is significant to Collins. He’s worked with Jordan for the past three seasons.

“I’m going to always locate my dog wherever he’s at, get with him and get right,” Collins said. “He’s special because he’s going to get you moving. He’s going to make you do unpredictable athletic movements, which is the game. You never know where you’ve got to step.

“With him doing these types of movements, that’s critical for D-line play. Seeing the guys still out here and training with (Jordan) and me finding my way to Houston, it might be something that naturally happened for a good reason. I have fun out here.”

Aaron Wilson has covered the NFL for 20 seasons, including the Texans, Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars. He has previously written for The Houston Chronicle and The Baltimore Sun. He’s on Twitter: @AaronWilson_NFL and Instagram: @aaronwilson7128.

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