HOUSTON -- One thing Houston Texans offensive lineman A.J. Cann knows far too well are the makings of a quarterback. During his seven seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars, eight quarterbacks held the title of starter while a total of 15 players attempted one pass.
Cann was limited to four games with an MCL injury in his final season but did watch No. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence adjust to life in the pros. Among the chaos of coaching concerns, injuries and the lack of leadership, Cann said he saw a calm Lawrence quiet the outside noise and remain collected with his thoughts.
It's a similar trait he can see in second-year starter Davis Mills.
"[He] really doesn’t talk much but when he gets in the huddle you see he is very poised and very confident and I love that about a quarterback," Cann said Tuesday of Mills following OTAs.
Lawrence and Mills share more in common than just being rookies in the AFC South. Mills grew up just on the outskirts of Atlanta and attended a private high school in Norcross. Lawrence played just 45 miles east in Cartersville, where he would light up the public schools before attending Clemson.
Mills, who was selected 66 picks after Lawrence, was regarded as the No. 1 quarterback in the 2017 class. Lawrence, who often has been compared to pros like Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck and John Elway, took home the top spot a season later.
The journey to the pros was different for both Peach State residents. Mills suffered multiple injuries during his time at Stanford, limiting him to 11 total games. Lawrence would lead the Tigers to a national title victory as a freshman, three total College Football Playoff appearances and finish as a two-time Heisman finalist.
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One year into their respective careers and Mills has the better numbers. Lawrence struggled with consistency due to a limited receiving corps and inconsistent offensive line play, throwing for 12 touchdowns against 17 interceptions and posting a passer rating of 71.9.
Mills, who started 11 games last fall, threw 16 touchdown passes against 10 interceptions and posted a rating of 88.8. All three numbers ranked second among rookies, trailing only New England's Mac Jones.
"It’s been documented on what I think of Davis," Texans coach Lovie Smith said. "I think he’s going to be an excellent quarterback in the NFL for a lot of years, but it’s about this year. Having a year, he and Pep Hamilton getting on the same page with our offense, and him being in a role from the start, that’s different also."
Cann can see similar tools in both, but the league might view them differently. During the interview process in Jacksonville's hiring, it was made clear that Lawrence would remain the future of the organization regardless of his numbers. Mills still has to earn the job past 2022 as a Day 2 selection.
Most Houston fans are hopeful that Mills can take the proper steps in his development under Hamilton to prove he's worth keeping around. The odds were stacked against him during a season that was filled with Deshaun Watson conversations and trade rumors, yet his numbers warranted another go around.
If Cann in just several weeks can see the maturity and 'it factor' in Mills, perhaps his others in the building see it as well.
"Quarterback is the toughest position in football and you have to put time in," Smith said. "There’s no substitute for experience, though. Every year there are some things Davis will get just based on playing the game for a long period of time, but I think a lot of the good ones, they play good ball early on, too."