Lined up across his defender, WR Nico Collins waited for the ball to be snapped. Instead of taking off like a rocket, he hesitated, skipped a bit to the inside before making a sharp cut outside to left side of the endzone. There, a pass from Davis Mills sailed directly into his hands for a touchdown against the New York Giants.
Nico was back.
Through his first six games, Collins led the Texans 272 yards receiving, averaging 18.1 yards per catch. After suffering a groin injury on Oct. 23 at Las Vegas, Collins missed two games. On Sunday against the Giants, Collins caught his first touchdown pass this season on a 12-yard score in the third quarter. The QB-WR duo appeared to pick up where they left off with Collins emerging as Mills' top target with five catches in his return.
Mills believes Collins biggest area of growth from his rookie season is his understanding of offensive and defensive schemes.
"He's grown a lot as a player," Mills said. "He's going out there, obviously he's a freak and extremely talented, and he's going to win his one-on-one matchups. The thing where he's grown is zone coverage. He knows where the openings and the zones are starting to come open and the timing of the routes of when he's going to be able to get the ball. The more and more he keeps learning and gets a better feel for the defense, it's going to be extremely hard to stop him."
Collins agrees. In fact, he recalls watching a play last year as a rookie and struggling to identify the defensive coverage. Cover 2? Cover 3? Collins went to work trying to identify disguises by watching film and picking the brains of the veteran receivers on the team.
"Coming to the NFL, you didn't know, like how important it was to read coverages because a lot of teams disguise," Collins said. "So once a coverage has shown pre-snap, it might not be the coverage they're going to end up being in. So I feel like that was a huge step for me and I'm still learning to read coverages, but I feel like as a wideout, you get that part down pat in your game and that's going to separate you because you know where the defense is going not going to be at. You're going to find the holes in the defense and things like that. I feel like that's a major improvement that that I worked on in the offseason and continuing now."
Through seven games this season, Collins has recorded 23 passes for 354 yards, averaging 15.4 yards per reception, and one touchdown. Collins and the Texans will host the Washington Commanders on Sunday. Kickoff is set for noon CT on FOX-26 and SportsRadio 610. Browse tickets.