HOUSTON – Now that veteran wide receiver Brandin Cooks has rejoined the Texans after missing a game for personal reasons due to his displeasure at not being traded at the NFL deadline, there’s a matter of next steps for him and the organization.
What that means for Cooks and the Texans going forward is figuring out how he fits into the game plan after a reduced role during the first eight games of the season for a 1-6-1 squad. Resolving the situation, as far as working out a potential trade to a contender, which nearly happened at the NFL trade deadline, is now a priority for the offseason agenda.
The Texans played without Cooks and Nico Collins, their top two wide receivers, during a 29-17 loss to the undefeated Philadelphia Eagles as quarterback Davis Mills passed for 154 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions with Phillip Dorsett and Chris Moore operating as the primary receivers.
Cooks leads the Texans with 32 receptions for 354 yards and one touchdown on 53 targets, considerably less involvement than a year ago when he caught 90 passes for 1,037 yards and six touchdowns on 134 targets. He has a long reception of 44 yards, an average of 50.6 yards per game, a catch percentage of 60.4 percent and an average of 6.7 yards per target.
“That’s what we’ve been trying to do throughout,” Texans coach Lovie Smith said Monday. “We’ve been trying to win every game throughout. Our best players, we’ve been trying to get them the ball, gameplan-wise as best we can. To let their talent show all within a team concept.
“We missed Brandin the last game we played, like we missed Nico the last game. We missed Maliek Collins. We missed a lot of those guys and can’t wait to get them back. We need everyone. Can’t wait to be them back as soon as possible and see what we can do then.”'
Cooks is on pace for 68 receptions for 809 yards for the season. He had two 1,000-yard seasons since joining the Texans in a trade from the Los Angeles Rams in 2020.
Smith previously indicated it was his decision to not have Cooks play in the game, emphasizing that he had been absent from the team and didn’t feel he was in the right space to play in the game. Cooks was replaced as an offensive team captain for the coin toss by offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil.
“I told you last week he was excused for personal reasons,” Smith said. “Part of the personal reasons was some of the things that was going on. I made a coach’s decision. I didn’t think he was ready to play. You don’t practice during the week I don’t think you’re ready to play in the game.”
Cooks expressed displeasure on social media Tuesday when the NFL trade deadline expired with no deal reached despite the Texans holding discussions and drawing inquiries from multiple teams, including the Dallas Cowboys late in the process, with a potential deal involving a second-round draft pick and a fourth-round draft pick discussed.
To trade Cooks, the Texans would likely have had to take on some of his 2023 salary to get the deal done, or Cooks would have had to restructure his contract.
“Don’t take a man’s kindness for granted,” Cooks wrote Tuesday on his verified Twitter account.” Covered for the lies for too long those days are done. Crossed the line with playing with my career "
Last Thursday morning, Cooks, who is deeply religious, wrote: “He will make my paths straight. Trust trust trust him”
Ultimately, no deal could be worked out as it was an extremely complicated situation due to financial reasons with Cooks’ $18 million guaranteed base salary in 2023 along with the Texans’ high asking price in terms of draft capital. The Texans, ideally, wanted a second-round draft pick and other compensation in exchange for Cooks, per league sources.
Cooks drew trade inquiries and interest from several teams, including the Los Angeles Rams, New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay Packers, Kansas City Chiefs and Cowboys, according to league sources.
Cooks’ teammates indicated they will welcome him back whenever he’s ready to return.
“Absolutely, exactly, that’s our teammate, that’s my brother,” offensive tackle Tunsil said. “I’m always going to love Brandin Cooks. So, open arms all day. That’s my guy.”
Cooks, who signed a two-year, $39.6 million contract extension in April that includes $36 million guaranteed, is with the 1-6-1 Texans for at least the remainder of the season.
This has become an increasingly awkward situation as Cooks liked several social media posts recently involving him and trade speculation. Ideally, Cooks wants to play for a contending team and have a major role. The Texans made a good-faith effort to try to trade him, but it didn’t work out.
“We support him no matter what,” offensive guard A.J. Cann said. “People forget in this game that we’re human, that we have personal issues. We’re going to hold it down for him. We’ll be happy to welcome him back with open arms this week.”
Maliek Collins, Nico Collins ‘right on schedule’
Texans defensive tackle Maliek Collins and wide receiver Nico Collins are improving health-wise after missing the last two games with injuries.
Maliek Collins, who has 12 tackles and three quarterback hits has a chest-rib injury. Nico Collins, who has caught 18 passes for 305 yards, has a groin injury. Both got hurt against the Las Vegas Raiders and missed losses to the Philadelphia Eagles and Tennessee Titans.
Neither player has practiced since getting hurt, but coach Lovie Smith expressed optimism that could change this week.
“I’m hoping,” Smith said. “We talk about how good the Giants are, rightfully so, we need all hands on deck. They’re getting better. Like I said, these last couple of days we let the guys get away a little bit. You know, guys are starting rehab and injury checks today, but we hope they will be able to. They are right on schedule and have made a lot of progress. We’ll see.”
“Best blocker,” Teagan Quitoriano
When the Texans activated rookie tight end Teagan Quitoriano, they envisioned the fifth-round draft pick from Oregon State operating as a physical blocker.
Quitoriano fulfilled more than one role. He caught a touchdown in his first NFL game against the Philadelphia Eagles, becoming the fifth player in franchise history to catch a touchdown in his first career game and the first since tight end Brevin Jordan last year. He’s the third player in franchise history to catch a touchdown on his first career reception, joining Derick Armstrong in 2003 and Jaelen Strong in 2015.
The Texans view Quitoriano as a classic Y tight end and regard him as their top blocking tight end among a group that includes O.J. Howard, Jordan Akins and Brevin Jordan.
Now, the Texans will use four tight ends going forward as they’ve incorporated Quitoriano into the mix.
“It’s tough to get four tight ends active and they were able to get into it,” Texans coach Lovie Smith said. “That’s tougher to do. Talking Teagan, in particular, he’s our best blocker of the group. We say we’re a running football team, you need a Y tight end and that’s what he is. He caught a touchdown pass and did some good things in the passing game too, which is an added bonus.
“I know Teagan played a little bit more in the preseason but we’re just glad to get him back into the mix. We love those decisions where, at the tight end position you talk about four guys and how we get them involved in the game plan. It will be fun to do that. When you play a team like we’re playing this week, without going over all the game plan, it’s about keeping more bodies in to being able to protect some of that stuff. We’ll ask all of those guys to do an awful lot. Just talking about a position, we talked about what Teagan has done, Jordan Akins has done the same thing. O.J. Howard has had his moments and getting Brevin back into the mix gives us a lot of flexibility.”
An honorable-mention All-Pac-12 selection in 2020 when he caught 14 passes for 185 yards and one touchdown, Quitoriano caught 19 passes for 214 yards and three touchdowns last season. He missed some time at training camp and during the offseason with the knee injury.
“At the time, it was a really cool experience,” Quitoriano said of the first-quarter touchdown that briefly gave the Texans the lead over Philadephia, who went on to win the game. “Kind of bitter now, with the result. At the time, it was a really cool experience.”
Quitoriano has outstanding size. He started as a true freshman for the Beavers. He was an all-state football and basketball selection in Salem, Oregon. He originally committed to Oregon before accepting a scholarship to Oregon State.
“He is a true Y tight end,” Texans quarterback Davis Mills said. “Helps a lot in the run game and does a lot, surprisingly, in the passing game because he is going to go and separate with his speed, and it catches people off guard how fast he is. It’s going to be exciting to see how he develops and keeps getting better each week.”
Aaron Wilson is a contributor to KPRC 2 and click2houston.com