Credit where credit is due, Nico Collins had a huge year for the Houston Texans, but if we're talking most-improved, we have a different name in mind. According to Pro Football Focus (via TexansWire.com), Collins was picked as the Most Improved Player of the Year for the Texans. And maybe rightfully so. He went from a combined 927 yards and three touchdowns in his first two seasons to 1,297 and eight touchdowns in year number three.
Clearly, he jumped up in production, but how much that is because he got "better" and how much is on the fact that he had a great quarterback throwing to him? Because he did have a great quarterback throwing to him. C.J. Stroud's arrival unlocked a large portion of the offense, giving them a passing game that they never had with Davis Mills, Tyrod Taylor, or Jeff Driskol under center. Clearly, the team needed a quarterback, and that's easily the biggest reason the production for Collins rose in year three.
So it's unfair to say he was the most improved when we don't know what he would've looked like in years one and two had he had someone on the level of Stroud. What we can say is that Blake Cashman had a body of work over the last few years for us to see. He was a bench player, mostly getting special team reps. With a new head coach in Houston and an opportunity to showcase his talents, he put in a massive performance across the season.
He had 80 more tackles this season than last (106 to 26) and proved himself to be one of, if not the best coverage linebacker in the game. He's easily someone who proved his value to the team this season and warrants being given a brand-new contract on top of it.
So when we talk about guys who really broke out in 2023, for us it's Cashman and not Collins, only because it's likely Collins had another 400+ season with any other quarterback than Stroud, while Cashman just needed the opportunity.