Nico Collins exploits size advantage for Texans' offense

INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- There weren't a lot of successful moments for the Texans' offense against the Los Angeles Rams during a game where the first-team offense got off to a sloppy start defined by misfired passes, fumbles and pass protection breakdowns.

One of the few bright spots was provided by imposing second-year wide receiver Nico Collins.

Towering over defensive backs at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, the former third-round draft pick from Michigan made a huge play at the end of the first half.

Collins elevated for contested catch in the end zone to haul in an 18-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Davis Mills to close out the first half. Collins bodied a defensive back away from the path of the football. 

"We took a shot in the red zone, and Davis trusted in me as a quarterback," Collins said. "No doubt, I'm going to get it. I thinking, 'I've got to go get it. I'm a tall guy. I'm going to make the play."

Collins, who has run the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds, caught four passes for 48 yards on six targets.

"Nico's a big target, with a lot of talent," Texans coach Lovie Smith said. "We want to get him in those type of situations. If we run the ball well, we'll get more one-on-one situations for Nico."

 Collins is one of the larger wide receivers in the NFL. And his chemistry with Mills keeps building.

"The biggest growth I've seen from him has been off the field and how much he's matured," Mills said. "Going to work each day, trying to be the best player he can be, I think he's made a big jump.”

Sputtering and sloppy to start the game, the Texans' first-team offense closely resembled the uneven outfit that struggled throughout last season.

Until a crisp final drive engineered by Mills capped by a touchdown pass to Nico Collins to end the first half, the offense was inconsistent and unproductive.

During the first seven drives of the game, the Texans produced just four first downs and had three tackles for losses with two sacks and a fumble. Left offensive guard Max Scharping struggled in pass protection, yielding the sack that led to a Mills fumble that Scharping recovered and a lost fumble by usually reliable running back Rex Burkhead.

"We did start off kind of slow," Collins said. "I don't know why, but we were out there trying to get a spark going."

Mills, a former third-round draft pick from Stanford expected to make a leap in his second NFL season, passed for 50 of his 96 yards on two late completions to end the half and completed 10 of 17 passes overall.

The Texans, though, had only 31 net yards of offense until there were 14 seconds left in the first half.

“It was awesome,” Mills said. “Obviously made some big-time plays. Didn’t have much going on before that, so it was nice to end the half with a score. We’re confident when we’re spreading the ball around like that and the line is protecting, we can go up against anyone.”

Mills had a 94.2 passer rating. Most of the effectiveness he showed was in the final minute of the first half as he went 4 for 7 for 60 yards.

"Early on, we didn't have a lot of success," Texans coach Lovie Smith said. "We decided to let the offense keep playing. You always want to finish on a high note."

The Texans were playing without top wide receiver Brandin Cooks and Pro Bowl left tackle Laremy Tunsil.

“We wanted to see Davis finish there offensively,” Texans coach Lovie Smith said. "That was a great throw by Davis to give Nico an opportunity to catch the ball. We’re not first-game-of-the-season-ready yet, but we see good things each week.”

The Texans put the game away on a touchdown catch by tight end Mason Schreck. It marked the second week in a row that third quarterback Jeff Driskel threw a game-winning touchdown pass.

“Two weeks in a row where offensively we needed to score, and defensively we need to stop them at the end," Smith said. "I talk a lot about situational football and how we love as many of these opportunities as possible.”

Mills recently said the Texans are "ready to go out and shock the world.”

The comment drew attention, and raised a few eyebrows about the prospects of a 4-13 team from last year.“I don’t think I need to elaborate on it,” Mills said. “I don’t think the media nationally is giving the Houston Texans a lot of attention. I think we know better than anyone else in the building. Our guys have full confidence in what we’re capable of, and we’re excited to get rolling with this season.”

Aaron Wilson is a Pro Football Network reporter and a contributor to Sports Talk 790.

Houston Texans v Los Angeles Rams

Photo: Getty Images

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