Texans excited about trio of WRs with Diggs, Collins, Dell

ByD.J. Bien-Aime ESPN logo
Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Note: This story was updated to reflect the contract extension for Nico Collins.

HOUSTON -- In late March, DeMeco Ryans was asked about the Houston Texans attempting to trade for six-time Pro Bowl receiverKeenan Allen at the league meetings.

The Texans coach's reasoning was he wanted to "upgrade the entire roster."

Houston's receiver room already had Nico Collins, who finished the 2023 season with 1,297 receiving yards, and Tank Dell, who was on pace for 1,205 yards before suffering a broken leg against the Denver Broncos in early December. Weeks prior, the team bolstered its running back room by trading for 2021 Pro Bowl running back Joe Mixon and re-signing tight end Dalton Schultz.

Even though Allen landed with the Chicago Bears, the Texans stayed aggressive.

In early April, Houstonsent a 2025 second-round pick to the Buffalo Bills for wide receiver Stefon Diggsand two draft picks. Ryans said the trio of Diggs, Dell and Collins for quarterback C.J. Stroud, who led the league in yards passing per game (273.9) for qualified passers as a rookie, "opens up the playbook for us and it puts a lot of stress on the defense."

The Texans made another investment by agreeing to athree-year, $72.75 million extensionwith Collins on Tuesday. Collins, who was set to be an unrestricted free agent in 2025, becomes the first draft pick under general manager Nick Caserio to receive a contract extension.

"We want to put defenses in binds, and I think with those three guys it allows us to do that because they are so different, and they can all do different things," Ryans said. "But at the end of the day, they are all explosive finishers with the football, and that is what makes those guys great players. They can win on third down, and they can finish and get in the end zone, and that's what we look for at all skill positions on offense."

On the second day of OTAs, the Texans' offense showed a glimpse of what its passing attack could resemble. Diggs wasn't there, but Dell,who was shot in the leg last month in Sanford, Florida, participated with no limitation.

Dell, who had 709 receiving yards as a rookie, showed the same speed that made him a dynamic option. Stroud displayed the accuracy that made him the Offensive Rookie of the Year with pinpoint passes to Collins, Schultz and Mixon.

Even though Diggs wasn't at the Texans' second OTA, he has been present at other offseason activities.

"It's been really fun working with Diggs," Ryans said. "You talk about a guy who's dialed in, a guy who loves football. It's been fun to work with him. It's been fun just to see the chemistry that starts to build in our locker room with him, our quarterback, the other receivers, offensive players, defensive players. He's going to be a really great fit with what we do here."

Following the trade, Ryans dismissed the notion that Diggs is regressing at this point in his career, even though he went his past 13 games -- including the postseason -- without eclipsing 100 receiving yards in a game.

From Weeks 1 to 9, Diggs had 834 receiving yards (third in the NFL), 70 receptions (first) and 7 touchdowns (second). But from Weeks 10 to 18, he had 37 receptions (tied for 30th), 349 yards (59th) and 1 touchdown (tied for 94th).

"We always go back to the tape and we look at a player in totality," Ryans said. "We don't look at this amount of weeks, or those weeks, we look at the entire season. We look at the guy's entire career, what he's done, how he's been productive. [Diggs] has been an All-Pro player, he's been a Pro Bowl player, over 1,000 yards for multiple seasons."

As the Texans enter Year 2 of their coach-quarterback combination, Ryans hopes the playmakers surrounding Stroud can elevate an offense that ranked 13th in scoring (22.7).

Stroud and Diggs have found time through the offseason to build chemistry. Shortly after Houston traded for Diggs, Stroud led a training session with Diggs -- along with players such asJohn Metchie III, Dell and others -- in Los Angeles.

"[Diggs] adds a ton of value to that room," Stroud said. "There's a lot of wisdom that he carries that I think he'll spread to the other guys. He's been reaching out to really everybody, and I think that whole room in general is going to be great. I think we're all going to feed off of each other. It's going to be very fun and very exciting just to work with everybody in that room, and I'm very excited for it."

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