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Rookie Davis Mills Reveals His 'Hope' On Texans QB Future

Texans’ Davis Mills on 2022 QB1 ambition: ‘I hope I’ve proved enough’

HOUSTON - Operating a free-wheeling offense that demanded a high-tempo style, Davis Mills proved he's well-suited to a hurry-up mode.

Although the rookie quarterback ultimately fell short in a comeback attempt Sunday during the Houston Texans' 28-25 loss to end the season against the AFC South champion and top-seeded Tennessee Titans, Mills was impressive in throwing three touchdown passes during a frantic second-half rally that turned a 21-0 rout into a tense, three-point drama.

The performance continued Mills’ upward trend as he sparked the offense and made his case to enter the 2022 season as the Houston Texans’ starting quarterback.

While Mills went 2-9 in 11 starts as the replacement for veteran quarterback Tyrod Taylor, the strong-armed third-round draft pick from Stanford had more than a few encouraging moments. He completed 66.8 percent of his throws for a franchise rookie-record 2,664 yards (eclipsing former top overall pick David Carr), 16 touchdowns, 10 interceptions and a respectable 88.8 passer rating.

Was it enough for Mills to be declared the QB1 heading into the 2022 season, or will he face competition from a more experienced quarterback?

“Well, I hope so,” Mills said. “Obviously, my whole thing is just going out there and playing my best, playing my heart out on the field. Obviously, it's the front office's decision, the coach's decision to see who plays, but I think, I hope I've proved enough to get that opportunity for next year.”

The Texans were stagnant in the first half against Tennessee, falling behind 21-0 as Mills completed just 7 of 14 passes for 61 yards and a 61.9 passer rating. In the second half, Mills rallied the Texans - despite a moribund, last-ranked running game - an finished 23 of 33 for 301 yards and three scores.

Just twice this season did a rookie quarterback throw for 300 yards and three touchdowns and zero interceptions in a game. Both times it was Mills - not higher draft picks Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson or Mac Jones - who hit those highs.

“I feel good about him,” Texans coach David Culley said. “ I got questioned going into halftime whether I was going to make a change. No, not going to make a change. He is our quarterback. Obviously, the way he played in the second half, the way our offense played in the second half with him directing it just goes to show that he’s good enough to do what we need to get done here to win football games.”

The way Mills played, he showed he’s more of a solution than a problem for a rebuilding franchise still hoping to trade three-time Pro Bowl quarterback Deshaun Watson and figure out if Culley and the coaching staff return for a second season.

By hitting the accelerator on a stagnant offense with Mills at the controls, the Texans’ offense was suddenly fun to watch even with top wide receiver Brandin Cooks injured.

“It felt like at halftime we needed to switch some things to start the second half fast, so we decided to use some tempo,” Mills said. “We were able to get up on the ball and make the defense declare what they were going to do, and we could call the play after that and start playing fast. Obviously, it worked. We were moving the ball, and it was a really fun second-half football.

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“I think over the course of the season I feel like I've gotten better and better and more comfortable out there, so that's the big thing. Just going out there and being comfortable in the offense and being able to play fast. I feel like I did that, especially in the second half, and it was fun. I think a lot of guys on our team played really well.”

In the second half, Mills completed 16 of 20 passes for 240 yards and three scores. He hit wide receiver Chris Moore for a 28-yard touchdown pass on a flea-flicker and connected with Danny Amendola for touchdowns from 7 and 26 yards as well as a two-point conversion. Amendola caught a season-high seven passes for 113 yards while fellow rookie Nico Collins caught three passes for 67 yards.

“It’s tough when you lose a guy like Brandin, and we weren’t able to use him in the second half,” Mills said. “A lot of guys stepped up and were able to show what they could do. Everyone played well in the second half, and I think everyone had a good feeling when we walked off the field.”

For the 4-13 Texans, Mills finished strong. He completed 68.9 percent of his throws to go 2-2 in the final four games of the season for 927 yards, eight touchdowns, two interceptions and a 106.1 passer rating during that span. In home games at NRG Stadium, Mills passed for 12 touchdowns with one interception. Mills had four games with 100 or higher passer ratings, including a 141.7 in a loss to the New England Patriots, 130.6 in an upset victory over the Los Angeles Chargers, 128.5 against the Titans on Sunday and 106.2 against the Los Angeles Rams.

“You can tell he is just getting way more comfortable,” Texans linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill said. “ I was very happy and impressed with how he played today, him slinging it around, throwing touchdowns. And there's been a lot of glimpses where he just flashes like an elite-level quarterback. I'm excited for his future.”

Mills had the most 125.0 or higher passer ratings among rookie quarterbacks, ranking first among rookies with four 300-yard passing games.

“He’s coming along,” Amendola said. “He’s a great quarterback. He’s going to be a good player here for a long time. He can spin it. He’s getting all of the operations down. He’s a great teammate. I’m rooting for him.

“It was definitely a stepping stone in the right direction for Davis, great learning experience. He’s going to take this into his second and the sky is the limit, honestly. He’s going to be great. He’s a great quarterback.”

Mills’ growth as a player was evident all season. Now, he’s committed to spending the offseason in Houston and convincing teammates to spend time catching passes with him to build on his rookie success.

“I think throughout the season, I just improved on my knowledge and comfortability within the offense,” Mills said. “Felt like I was able to go out there and play fast and really just react to what I see from defenses rather than having to think and take time pre-snap or post-snap to kind of realize what's going on.

“I'm able to play faster in that sense. And then I think I just want to build on staying consistent with different concepts in the offense, building chemistry with the guys who are able to stay in Houston in the offseason because I'll be here working every day, working every week to get better for next year. I'm trying to convince as many people as I can to do the same. It will be fun, and we're looking forward to the offseason and just getting better.”

Mills expressed hope that Culley will be retained. He'd like to keep building his career with him.

“Yeah, I think he did a great job all season,” Mills said .” Obviously, he was a great leader for the team. In the game of football, ultimately, it comes down to wins and losses, but he had full faith in the team and really led us well all season. I loved him as a coach, and I hope he is back.”

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