C.J. Stroud believes Texans have ‘this generation’s Andre Johnson’ on the roster

It’s one thing to hype up teammates after a breakout season. It’s another to compare them to one of the top players at his position in league history.

Houston Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud did a bit of both while acknowledging the greatness of future Hall of Fame receiver Andre Johnson during Tuesday’s press conference. After a breakout season from Nico Collins, he expects to see No. 12 channel his inner No. 80 moving into 2024 and beyond.

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

Collins, a former third-round pick out of Michigan, lived up to the No. 1 receiver mantra once Stroud joined the roster last April. Two underwhelming years with insufficient quarterback play were replaced by career numbers in catches (80), receiving yards ( 1,297 yards) and touchdowns (eight).

The Texans believe Collins can have a similar impact to Johnson and former All-Pro DeAndre Hopkins, and proved that with a three-year extension worth $72.5 million late last month. He’s on the right track to meet the lofty goals as he’s only the third player in franchise history to finish with 1,200 or more receiving yards in a single season.

“One thing I’m proud of for him is just the work has never stopped,” Stroud said. “He’s constantly in here working on his body, his hands, his mobility in the weight room. ”

The Johnson comparison could be cringy, but perhaps true in due time. Like Collins, the former Miami star only totaled one 1,000-yard season in his first three years due to incompetent quarterback play.

Remember though, passing was a second-tier approach compared to today’s game. Also, keep in mind that once Matt Schaub entered the building, the 1K marker became an expectation, not a happy story.

From 2006-13, Johnson compiled six 1,000-yard campaigns and six Pro Bowl nods. And the two years he didn’t was because of injury. Johnson was limited to nine games in 2007 and was only 149 yards short of surpassing the marker.

In 2011, he was limited to seven games and was a tad shy of 500 yards.

Collins, who’s locked in until 2027, will also be splitting reps as the No. 1 with two different playmakers this fall. Rookie Tank Dell was on pace for over 1,200 yards before suffering a broken leg in early December. To bolster Stroud’s passing attack, the Texans traded for four-time Pro Bowler Stefon Diggs from Buffalo.

Since 2020, Diggs has led the NFL in receptions (445) and ranks fourth in receiving yards (5,372). That could change in Houston, but even with multiple weapons, the 30-year-old still averaged over 1,110 receiving yards per campaign in Buffalo.

Stroud, the NFL’s reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year, consistently turned to Dell in prime moments last season before the injury. The two have been in sync since throwing at the NFL combine in February 2023, and it’s not expected to change now with Dell back at full speed.

But Collins differs from the other two pass-catchers. He emulates something that made Johnson a staple of the 2000s: size. Johnson stood 6-foot-3 and terrorized defenders in the red zone.

Collins, who stands 6-foot-4, does much of the same.

“I watched him on tape before I got here,” Diggs said. “He is definitely one of the best receivers we got.”

Even if Collins doesn’t live up to the Johnson comp, Stroud and the Texans understand what type of player he is in the huddle and the locker room. He presents a humbleness and laid-back demeanor around teammates.

Stroud said Collins loved watching his teammates get their chance to feast. Even after signing a new deal, that persona remains a staple in practice.

“It’s a special feeling to see somebody who deserves to get paid and get what they deserve. I’m just really proud of him.”

Story originally appeared on Texans Wire