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With C.J. Stroud ruled out, Davis Mills has huge opportunity ahead for Houston Texans

Davis Mills
Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

It may not be the featured story, but the 2023 NFL season has been all about the backup quarterback. Despite attempts to make life easier on quarterbacks, which includes protecting them now more than ever, 18 of 32 NFL teams have had to start someone other than their QB1 this season. With C.J. Stroud ruled out for Sunday, Davis Mills and the Houston Texans will stretch that number to 19 teams.

In a perfect world, the Texans would have their Rookie of the Year candidate leading Houston into battle when taking on the Tennessee Titans on Sunday. Yet, Stroud suffered a concussion last week, and he’s been unable to clear the league’s concussion protocols since. This leaves DeMeco Ryans with no choice but to turn to either backup Davis Mills or veteran journeyman Case Keenum on Sunday as the Texans look to move to 8-6.

The expectation is for the Texans to turn to Mills, who operated as Houston’s starting QB for the previous two seasons, before Ryans and Stroud arrived.

While no official announcement on Houston’s starting QB in Week 15 has been made, the opportunity to see what Mills can do can’t be turned down.

Remember, at one point, the Texans felt Mills had a legitimate chance to develop into the team’s franchise QB. This is why they made him the 67th overall pick in 2021.

The issue is that Mills was never given much of a chance to succeed, playing on a team many would regard as one of the most talent-bereft rosters in football. That’s no longer the case in Houston this season, or if it is, the coaching staff is doing a hell of a job masking their weaknesses.

Can they do the same with Mills?

Davis Mills career stats: 63.4% comp. rate, 187.3 YPG, 33 TD, 25 INT

Stroud has been performing as a top-ten QB this season, and although Mills won’t have Tank Dell at his side, could we see enormous growth from the third-year pro?

While no one wanted to see Stroud get hurt, now the Texans get a chance to see how Mills performs in the same offense. This year has shown just how important having a respectable backup can be to reach the postseason. Just look at Cleveland or Minnesota, who have turned to their backup QBs yet have come away with three wins apiece during their adventures.

There’s no question who the future is in Houston. It’s obviously Stroud’s team. Yet, the Texans can still benefit by having Mills go out and show he deserves another chance to start somewhere else too. Who knows?

If Mills can impress against Tennessee, maybe the Texans can capitalize and sell high on their young backup QB this offseason, helping add even more youthful talent to their core. Or, after seeing everyone else’s starting QB get hurt, maybe Houston realizes the value of having a talented backup too. First things first, Mills has to impress on Sunday. Then we’ll worry about hypotheticals.

Related: See where C.J. Stroud lands in Sportsnaut’s NFL QB rankings

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