Nico Collins is still in the hunt for his first NFL touchdown, a potential score that eluded him on an incomplete connection on a deep throw from veteran quarterback Tyrod Taylor last Sunday against the New York Jets.
The Texans’ imposing rookie wide receiver keeps making strides in his first NFL season, displaying sound hands, body control and improving route running skills.
At 6-foot-4, 215 pounds with 4.45 speed in the 40-yard dash, the former University of Michigan standout is one of the biggest wide receivers in the NFL and he plays the game with a physical nature. The Texans are excited about his potential as a rookie starter they’ve developed after acquiring him by trading back into the third round.
“My confidence is getting better,” Collins said. “I feel like I am getting more confident in my game, understanding the game and the speed of it. I still feel there is room for me to work on my game, work on the things I feel I need to improve on most. I feel like I need to study defenses more, anything I feel I can up my game on. There is always room for improvement.”
Collins caught two passes for 28 yards on five targets during a 21-14 loss to the Jets.
The deep ball that got away, he’s using it as a learning experience.
“We just didn’t connect on it,” Collins said. “Felt could have kept my ankle just a little more higher coming out that break, but it’s a rep. We rep all the time in practice and connect. I feel like it’s something I can improve on. Just seeing where I am at on the field, just doing things like that because I feel like if I got a little more height it would have been a touchdown. But you live and you learn from it and I feel that’s what I did.”
Collins has caught 18 passes for 229 yards on 29 targets in three starts this season. During a 31-3 loss to the Indianapolis Colts earlier this season, Collins caught a career-high four passes for 44 yards on six targets.
“I feel like I have improved a lot in my route running, understanding coverages and things like that,” Collins said. “But I still feel like there is room for improvement. That comes with experience and seeing the way defensive backs plays. It just comes from experience. That’s where I am going right now. I am growing and that’s one main thing I feel like I need to do.”
Collins has been mentored by older receivers, including Brandin Cooks.
“It just comes from experience,” he said. “Just watching week to week, I feel like I find something new out every week. It really just comes from the guys in my room. I really appreciate them always being there for me and whatever questions I have. They are a part of that just helping me break down film, what to look for.
“Things like that because they have experience and they know what it takes, and I am new to it, so I lean on them for whatever I have. I give props to them for helping me out through my first year being in the league, my first year of not knowing what to expect on Sunday. I am always picking their brains. They’ve been helping me out a lot and grow.”
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.
After opting out last season during the first year of the coronavirus pandemic, the Alabama native is part of a small, promising rookie draft class that includes tight end Brevin Jordan, quarterback Davis Mills, nose tackle Roy Lopez and linebacker Garret Wallow.
“The rookie class, we came in together, we are always leaning on each other, always be there for each other,” Collins said. “Seeing Brevin come in learning the game and him going out there and making plays. Davis, Roy, Wallow, just seeing everybody out there playing and having huge roles on our team, it means a lot.
“As the season goes on, may get tired mentally, but we all lean on each other, be there for each and always say to each other, ‘Let’s keep going, let’s get better.’ It’s great opportunity for us. We just can’t take things for granted because a lot of people want to be in our spots.”