The Houston Texans used their first pick in the 2021 NFL Draft on quarterback Davis Mills from Stanford. Selected at the top of the third round, Mills has all the physical traits teams look for in a quarterback. However, the common thought process was that he might be a few years away from being able to play meaningful NFL football.
With Deshaun Watson inactive for a third consecutive game to open the 2021 season and Tyrod Taylor currently on short-term injured reserve, Mills is now being thrown out there on a short week against a stellar Carolina Panthers defense Thursday night.
Everything seems to be setting up for some major struggles on the part of the young quarterback. A lack of first-team reps throughout training camp and the preseason coupled with Houston’s weak skill-position group adds another layer to this.
Even as huge underdogs heading into this game, Mills and his Texans have a prime opportunity to seize the spotlight.
Davis Mills is a David Culley guy
At 1-1 on the season, Houston is about one-third of the way to its projected win total in 2021. That’s not hyperbole.
Boasting one of the least-talented rosters in the NFL and with the Watson situation remaining a major talking point, most figured Houston couldn’t even stay competitive on a weekly basis.
Following a blowout Week 1 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars and having stayed with the Cleveland Browns for a good part of last Sunday’s game, that’s obviously no longer the case.
Mills took over for an injured Taylor against Cleveland last week, completing a mere 8-of-18 passes for 102 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He also fumbled the ball once. These are not great numbers. They are also not unexpected when we’re talking about a project quarterback who attempted all of 438 passes in college.
What we do know is that Culley is attempting to change the toxic culture that defined the latter part of Bill O’Brien’s tenure with the Texans. Mills could very well be the poster boy for that.
Davis Mills and the Deshaun Watson situation
Facing allegations of sexual assault and/or misconduct from north of 20 women, there’s really no telling whether Watson has a future in the NFL. Even if he were to be cleared of the allegations, the reigning NFL passing yards leader has played his final game with the Texans. Remember, he requested a trade early in the offseason and reported for training camp solely to avoid a $50,000 daily fine. For all intents and purposes, Watson’s career with the Texans is over.
How does this relate to Davis Mills? Well, it’s rather simple. Despite some tremendous play from Tyrod Taylor through six quarters, he’s seen as a stopgap option in Houston. As is the case with every NFL team attempting to climb out of the abyss, it’s all about the quarterback position.
Lacking draft capital this past April due to the bevy of ill-fated trades the aforementioned O’Brien made, new Texans general manager Nick Caserio opted to look to the future with his first pick in the draft. This came with the understanding that 2021 would represent a year of transition in Houston. Punting on the campaign for future success made a lot of sense.
Now, months after selecting Mills, Houston has an opportunity to view its potential future franchise quarterback in real-game action much sooner than most people anticipated.
For a downtrodden organization, this opportunity is rare. It could also give Houston’s brass a good understanding of whether Mills is the long-term answer. And in doing so, provide Caserio cover for trading Watson once his legal situation is settled. Yeah, “Thursday Night Football” is pretty big for Davis Mills and his team.