HOUSTON – One of the largest wide receivers in the league at a towering 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, Nico Collins was practically an afterthought during the first game of the season.
The Texans and quarterback Davis Mills made a concerted effort to change that aspect of the game plan during a Sunday road loss to the Denver Broncos.
Collins had just two catches for 26 yards on three targets in a season-opening tie versus the Indianapolis Colts.
Against the Broncos, Collins was significantly more involved and that led to an uptick in production.
Collins tied Brandin Cooks for the most receptions on the team with four catches. He led the team with 58 yards, four more than Cooks, on nine targets as Cooks was targeted a team-high 10 times.
And Collins had a 29-yard reception, Mills’ longest completion of the game.
“I feel like we can build from that,” Collins said Tuesday. “Got another week to build on, a long season. I feel like it’s a great opportunity for everybody to watch film and come out and work on the things we need to work on. It’s a long season. I feel we’re going to watch this film, find things we need to work on and build from that.”
While the Texans’ offense has a lot of problems, Collins can be part of the solution.
The 0-1-1 Texans are averaging just 14.5 points to rank 26th in the NFL in scoring offense, 29th in total offense, 24th in passing offense and 27th in rushing offense heading into a road game against the Chicago Bears.
They have yet to score in the fourth quarter, being outscored by a margin of 27-0 in squandering two leads.
“I feel like we just need to finish in the fourth quarter,” Collins said. “It’s a long game. Four quarters, that’s a lot of football. I feel like the last two games haven’t done that well in the fourth quarter, but I feel like it’s a long season. We’re going to improve on that.”
Mills passed for just 177 yards against the Broncos with no touchdowns or interceptions and was sacked three times as he completed 19 of 38 passes and the Texans went 2 for 13 on third downs.
As a rookie last season after being drafted in the third round out of Michigan, the Alabama native caught 33 passes for 446 yards and one touchdown on 60 targets and averaged 13.5 yards per reception.
Collins has the requisite size, speed (4.4 speed in the 40-yard dash), leaping ability and route-running skills and hands to be a higher-volume contributor as a complementary No. 2 presence working in tandem with Cooks.
“Nico is a big target,” Texans coach Lovie Smith said. " =As you identify some of the things, after the fact, I thought Nico did some good things when we featured him. As we look at it, big target. When we do go to him, it seems like he’s been a playmaker. That’s one of the areas that yes, we need to be able to get Nico more involved, when we’re passing the football.”
Collins’ 58 yards was the third-highest of his career. And his catch total is tied for the second-most of his career, including four catches apiece last year against the Los Angeles Rams and Indianapolis Colts.
Texans offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton has been complimentary of Collins’ work.
The Texans didn’t go to Collins in the red zone, but he could provide an inviting target for Mills. Especially if defenses continue to concentrate on Cooks.
“It really just comes down to what the game plan is,” Collins said. “We trust it, believe in it. Whenever that time comes, we’ll see what play call is dialed up.”
Aaron Wilson is a Pro Football Network reporter and a contributor to KPRC 2 and click2houston.com.