Nico Collins  [608x342]
Nico Collins [608x342] (Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports)

Homa makes cut lets out out-of-body experience

 

HOUSTON -- When Nico Collins signed his rookie deal with the Houston Texans in 2021, one of his long-term goals was earning a contract extension.

When the wide receiver was walking toward the Texans locker room on May 28, Collins' agent Drew Rosenhaus called.

It was a quick call, as Rosenhaus told his client "congrats'' after sealing a three-year, $72.75 million extension, becoming the first draft pick under general manager Nick Caserio to be extended. But for 2024, Collins has new goals: The former third-rounder out of Michigan has his eyes set on exceeding his 2023 season when he had 1,297 yards (ranked eighth) and eight touchdowns (tied for eighth).

"I'm trying to get 1,500 yards, minimum. That's what I'm chasing," Collins told ESPN. "I'm chasing the dudes that I've been watching for years. Julio Jones, Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, successful receivers that made the game look so easy."

Before 2023, Collins had 927 receiving yards and three touchdowns through two seasons. But quarterback C.J. Stroud came in last season and saw a "superstar" in him in their first training camp.

Collins validated Stroud's preseason assessment by emerging as his No. 1 receiver for a Texans' offense that ranked eighth in passing yards per game (243.6). Collins' breakout helped Stroud lead the league in passing yards per game (274) en route to a Pro Bowl season as a rookie.

But to Stroud, it's only the beginning as they enter Year 2 together. And if Collins can reach his goal, he would become the third Texan wideout to reach that mark, joining DeAndre Hopkins and franchise all-time leading receiver Andre Johnson, who is being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August.

"When [Collins'] number is called, he always makes a play," Stroud said. "He's a generational talent. He's like our age's Andre Johnson, in my opinion, just how fast he is, how he gets in and out of his breaks, releases, how strong he is. I think last year was just a preview of what's to come for him."

Collins believes reaching the next level will center on the small details. He's doing extra drills after practice to improve his footwork. He's also challenging himself by catching passes when fatigue sets in to prepare for when those critical moments arrive during the season.

While the team believes in Collins' capability, the abundance of talent on the Texans' offense -- which is a preferred circumstance for them -- could impede his production.

The Texans enhanced their receiver room by trading for Stefon Diggs, who has six straight 1,000-yard seasons, to pair with Collins and Tank Dell, who finished with 709 yards in 11 games before breaking his leg. They also bolstered the running back room by trading for 2021 Pro Bowl running back Joe Mixon and re-signed tight end Dalton Schultz.

Collins sees this as a chance for those on the offense to feed off each other. And during OTAs and mandatory minicamp that was on display.

When Diggs drew attention from the Texans' defense, Collins took advantage of the extra space over the middle. If Diggs and Collins weren't open, Stroud could throw it to Dell. If not, he had Schultz and Mixon underneath.

Even though Collins has lofty goals for himself, winning is at the forefront. So, if the Texans win at a high level, he'll be more than fine with the statistical trade off.

"It's gonna be hard for defenses," Collins said. "I feel like for us it will give everybody else opportunities to shine and win. That's our mission. We are trying to win a Super Bowl. Can't be selfish, have to be a team player. Got to have joy for your brother when he makes a play."