Head Coach David Culley described Nico Collins' return to the starting lineup as "a little spark" for the offense. The Houston Texans rookie wide receiver caught four passes for 44 yards, the second-most receiving yards on the team, against the Indianapolis Colts in his first performance since Week 2.
"Nico's a great guy to be around," Davis Mills said. "Really talented out there on the field. He makes it tough on defenses to cover him because he can do a lot, both vertically and in the intermediate routes and short routes. He's a good target to have out there."
The Texans activated Collins off Injured Reserve on Oct. 16 following a shoulder injury that caused him to miss three games. Collins injured himself on a 32-yard catch on the first offensive play of the game.
"I got hurt, Cleveland game first play," Collins said. "I feel like that really set me back. So every day, it was kind of a mental thing, mentally locked in in the meeting rooms, even during practice. Even though I'm not getting the physical reps, I had to lock in mentally like I'm really getting the game reps. So it was more of a mental thing for me, but I feel like I did a pretty good job doing that. You know, make sure I was staying engaged, make sure I'm not getting behind plays or new formations or anything Coach (Tim) Kelly put in anything like that."
Before his shoulder injury, Collins was catching passes from starting QB Tyrod Taylor. After his return, Collins had a new quarterback in Mills who started the last four games with Taylor on IR for a hamstring injury. Despite not playing in a game together since the preseason, both rookies were in sync with their chemistry and timing.
"I think it kind of goes back to rookie minicamp and OTAs," Mills said. "We've kind of been working together for a while now and have built some of that chemistry. We're kind of just picking up where we left off."
In Training Camp presented by Xfinity, veteran Brandin Cooks quickly observed that Collins was different from other rookies. On the field, Collins earned praise and garnered daily attention with his eye-popping catches and crisp route running in practice. While he had the physical size and athleticism, Collins also concentrated on the mental aspect of the game with his preparation.
"The best way I learn is actually going out there and physically doing it," Collin said. "So, for example, say we put in a new install. I see it, write it down, and then the best way I understand is going out there hearing it and going to get lined up and actually going through the footwork in the timing with the quarterbacks."
In three games with two starts, Collins has six catches for 83 yards, averaging 13.8 yards per reception. With more than half the season remaining, Collins hopes to build on what he started this offseason.
"I just want to get better, just understanding the offense, understanding the coverages, working on my game," Collins said. "There's always room for improvement, you know? So I just feel like those things I really want to work on focusing on, but overall, just to become a better player. I just want to be there for my teammates and just show up on Sundays and make plays for my team."
Collins and the Texans will play the Cardinals on Sunday at State Farm Stadium. Kickoff is set for 3:25 p.m. CT on CBS and SportsRadio 610.
The next time you can see the Texans at NRG Stadium will be on October 31 as they host the Los Angeles Rams in Week 8. Kickoff is set for noon CT. Click here for tickets.