Like the rest of the NFL, the Houston Texans are dealing with an increase in players landing on the Reserve/COVID-19 List over the past few weeks.
Earlier this week, the Texans placed four defensive linemen on the list: Jacob Martin, Derek Rivers, Maliek Collins and Jaleel Johnson. On Wednesday, WR Brandin Cooks, K Ka'imi Fairbairn and LB Eric Wilson were added. With 16 players currently on the COVID-19 list, rookies have gotten increased playing time and performed well.
"Unfortunately, with COVID-19, it's been a bunch of guys that it's been affecting," Head Coach David Culley said. "Basically, you just go business as usual and just kind of stay the course and not let it become a disruption or a distraction with your team. Basically, what has happen is it's been a great opportunity for the guys that haven't been playing to play. Of course, we've got a couple of rookies and Jonathan (Owens) who have come in and done a great job for us, with some of our key guys being out that have played for us all year. That's how we approach it and not let it be a distraction and a disruption."
In their 30-16 win at Jacksonville, the Texans played without nine starters due to COVID-19 positives. Culley referred to the victory as the team's best game "complementary football-wise" in his short tenure with the team.
LB Garret Wallow, who played 94 percent of snaps on defense with Christian Kirksey and Kamu Grugier-Hill out, finished with a team-tying high in tackles (11) and added his first career sack, plus a tackle for loss and a quarterback hit in his first start. Nico Collins played 64 percent of snaps on offense and caught two passes from fellow rookie Davis Mills for 14 yards. Roy Lopez has started every game since Week 2 and recorded two tackles and a tackle for loss. Both Wallow and Lopez also played over 30 percent of their snaps on special teams.
On Sunday, with Cooks and a growing number of players landing on the Reserve/COVID-19 List, rookies will have to step up again when the Texans face an 8-6 Los Angeles Chargers team at home.
"I feel like the rookies that came in with this draft class we took advantage of every opportunity we got," Collins said. "Every day, it's stacking days, getting better, waiting for the opportunity, waiting for our number to be called. I feel like our numbers have been called and we're coming up to home plate. We are doing what we were working this offseason for, grinding for opportunities like this, to play on Sundays. The time has come, and now it shows the ground we've been putting in the offseason, so now it shows now."
The Texans host the Los Angeles Chargers this Sunday at noon. Click here for tickets.
The Houston Texans roster in photos.