The mystery that surrounds the Houston Texans quarterback carousel many are expecting to return this upcoming preseason is being driven primarily by the question; When will rookie Davis Mills start? Not 'if.'
On Friday, the Houston Chronicle's John McClain gave his opinion on when he expects to see the highly anticipated Stanford product.
"We will see him after the bye week for the last eight games because they (Houston) have to see him for a good part of the season so they'll know what they have," said McClain on SportsRadio610 with Clint Stoerner and The Show. "Because if by some miracle he could be 'the guy,' that he can show them that, it would change next year's draft considerably. And if he's not then of course they're going to have to get a quarterback in next year's draft."
Many believe Mills has the talent to be a first-round pick, but his lack of college starts (11 overall) led to his falling to Houston in the third round. Something that McClain believes will prevent him from seeing the field early on in the season.
"The tough part for Davis Mills, he'll have the mental part down, it's when he has to get on the field and start doing things, that would've helped him to spend another year in school and on the football field would've made that transition much easier," suggested McClain.
With the future of Deshaun Watson in question, and if nothing else his career in Houston presumed by most to be over, the Texans are clearly looking forward given that they signed not only Mills but veterans Tyrod Taylor and Ryan Finley.
At the moment, ask almost anyone and they'll say that Taylor is the presumptive starter. A former Pro Bowler, he's an experienced dual-threat QB with experience with head coach David Culley, QB coach Pep Hamilton, and offensive line coach James Campen. However, while he will likely start Week 1, his history of injuries when being used as a stop-gap starter is troubling.
"Last year when Pep Hamilton was his coach with the (LA) Chargers he got hurt with that freak injury, had his lung punctured on a pain-killing shot, and (rookie) Justin Herbert had to start before the Chargers wanted him to," said McClain, and it wasn't just in LA where he's had this happen.
"2018, [the] third game he got hurt and they (Cleveland Browns) had to start (rookie) Baker Mayfield before they wanted to."
McClain later suggested that he believes they will start Mills when he's ready out of necessity as they prepare for next year's draft. However, if lightning strikes a third time and Finley struggles as his replacement, then Mills may well see action sooner than would be ideal.
But McClain also made the salient point that the key is to not throw him to the dogs when he's not ready. Former Texans wide receiver Cecil Shorts followed this up by pointing out that this is exactly what happened with both Blaine Gabbert and Blake Bortles while he was with the Jacksonville Jaguars, both of whom are now perennial backups who never quite hit the heights expected of them.
Ultimately, if McClain is right and the Texans wait until the final eight games to see what Mills can do, that would mean his debut would come in Week 11 at the Tennessee Titans, with his first home game being the following week against the New York Jets.