Houston Texans QB Davis Mills has a big chance, but can real success be in his sophomore year?

HOUSTON – On a sweltering Tuesday in August at the Houston Methodist Training Center, in the shadow of NRG Stadium, most observers’ eyes are focused on sophomore year Houston Texas midfielder Davis Mills. Viewers watched as the 23-year-old cut through Houston’s defense in paper-cut style 1000 deaths, mostly taking what he was assigned and occasionally making a big game down the field.

People who don’t watch Mills? Many people watched Texas freshman coach Lovie Smith watch Mills. His midfield playstyle will say a lot about Smith’s early tenure, and how the direction of a rebuilding franchise unfolds. The famous Smith even seems impressive, if not ostentatious.

Smith talking about Mills. “First it was about ball security, the midfielder defends the football. He did that throughout the game, and once it’s down there now, you have to get past it at the end. It’s fun to have. saw him do it today.”

The Texans have handed the keys to Mills, who has only played 11 games as a rookie in 2021, to prove he can be the driving force behind the organization. During the early parts of the training camp, countless teammates praised his leadership qualities. The former Stanford third-round player has shown maturity and confidence.

“I feel really good. I think I’ve grown a lot since the end of last season,” Mills said. “I felt progress towards the end of last year and then really entered the offseason, its great momentum and support allowed me to come out here and start playing very quickly when I started. At the beginning of the training camp and throughout the OTAs, I’m excited to continue making progress. “

Is Mills a QB franchise? The answer to that question is that the central plot of the 2022 season will open a door into the long-term future of the organization.

But Mills’ concept of success raises another question for a struggling franchise, one that has had four seasons in a row. What will success look like for Mills?

Mills’ 2021 numbers are better than every first-round QB in his draft class outside Mac Joneswho helped lead New England Patriots made it to the knockout stages and earned a spot in the Pro Bowl.

In Mills’ final nine starts, he throws 2,307 yards, 14 touches and five intercepts with a passer rating of 96. It’s a period that includes outstanding performances before Last season’s AFC top seed in the match Tennessee Titansthe Los Angeles charger and the Patriots against whom he combined for 867 yards with eight touchdowns.

Those numbers largely depend on efficiency and accuracy. After Week 5, Mills completed 69.8% of his throws in the medium and short areas of the field, the eighth-best record in the NFL.

“I think working underneath, like short to mid-range, he’s accurate, this will help him. I think he’s got good accuracy,” a league executive said of Mills. “He’s a pretty slick pitcher.”

And when Mills identified an opportunity for it to rip, he did. On passes 20 yards or more deep, Mills has the highest passer rating in the NFL of 132.6 and throws 6 touchdowns.

“He played the position really well,” an NFL assistant told ESPN ahead of this season. “He doesn’t make a lot of rookie mistakes in the games I’ve watched. He can work through advancements from the pocket, great mechanics, basic sound, accurate on all three levels, maybe drive the ball and cushion the ball. Really checked a lot of the boxes.”

As encouraging as the numbers and sentiments regarding his play are, they believe in a baffling truth – Houston led 2-9 in games started by Mills last season, with His passing numbers were not enough to overcome the shortcomings around him.

widen Brandin Cooks won the best 90 catches and 1,037 yards with 6 touchdowns, but Houston’s next four wide picks combined for 1,244 yards in the air, and no one else on the team caught that many. more than 33 balls.

The Texans’ offensive line allows 44 sacks, the ninth most in the NFL. And the invisible running game averaged 83 yards per game, dead last.

Taking the next step for Mills will largely depend on whether he helps to move the team forward in the victory column. And tournament observers found that to be an unstable proposition at best.

ESPN’s Most Recent NFL Future Power Rankings the exercise ranked the Texans in 27th place, just ahead of Detroit Lion, Giants in New York, Chicago Bears, Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons. The league’s panel of experts found the Texans had the least talented roster in the league, when not counting the quarterbacks.

Houston’s 2022 draft is largely seen as a step in the right direction. The Texans improved the offensive line by choosing Kenyon Green out of Texas A&M with the 15th pick overall to play left-back. Texans also choose Alabama wide receiver John Metchie III in the second round, but Metchie III was diagnosed with blood cancer and is unlikely to play this season.

The Texans have not been active in adding senior talent around Mills through free agency. They added a 1,000-yard ex-Colts . tiller Marlon Mack to strengthen the running game and they will also give Florida’s backyard an opportunity Dameon Piercea fourth round draft selection.

Then there’s the question of Smith and the new coaching staff, although raising Pep Hamilton from midfield coach to offensive coordinator would provide some continuity for Mills.

Beyond the offensive lineup and staff building, some reviewers around the league question Mills’ pure talent for being a QB franchise.

“He’s not,” said one tournament executive, who requested anonymity. “There are two types of quarterbacks. There are God-made midfielders and man-made midfielders. God-made quarterbacks are the ones who can roll out of bed and make the throws that the money man does. The artificial defense took an hour to warm up. Davis had to be in tune with all the calls and he had to play within the framework of the game and lead the attacks masterfully.”

Some who have assessed Mills have suggested that the lack of pure arm strength is a major concern for his future in the NFL.

“For his size and stature [6-foot-4, 225 pounds], you think he would have that arm strength just to be able to generate force from what he has. You don’t really see that,” said the professional scout.

“Pushing the ball past 20 yards is a gamble,” said one tournament operator. “So vertically they will always be challenged there with him as a midfielder.”

Opponents ran against Mills’ teammates, who expressed nothing but faith in the former third-place athlete in the early days of training camp. The Cooks star receiver said of Mills, “He can be cool.”

Mills ‘Pro Bowl’ left-ball challenge Laremy Tunsil labels the QB he defends as “dawg.”

Having faith in the Mills dressing room could prove he is the future. Regardless of the worry from experts, he has a golden opportunity. It was his show. If that 2021 nine-game sample goes over 17 games, then the Texas QB decision in 2023 would be an easy one.

“I’m telling you, Davis is different,” yes Tytus Howard speak. “Probably one of the coolest and calmest players I’ve ever met. It’s going to take him a long way.”

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