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Texans QB Davis Mills: 'Still A Very Confident Football Player'

Back in the starting lineup, Houston Texans quarterback Davis Mills hopes that he can duplicate last year's late-season success in final five games.

HOUSTON -- Davis Mills struck a confident stance during his first media appearance since regaining his starting job. 

The Houston Texans' starting quarterback, preparing for Sunday's game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium, used the last few weeks on the bench as a learning experience.

He replaces turnover-prone Kyle Allen and hopes to reverse his personal trend of interceptions and poor decision making.

“I have a bunch of teammates who reached out," Mills said. "A big thing was my girlfriend and my family. They’ve been watching me play football my whole life, and they know I’m a good player. I know I’m a good player. Just them instilling that confidence in me was huge, so I’m just excited for my next opportunity, which is this week. I’m still a very confident football player. I didn’t lose any confidence in these two weeks, and I’m excited to get out there on Sunday.” 

Mills passed for 1,258 yards, nine touchdowns, and two interceptions in the final five games of last season with a 102.4 passer rating.

Plus, the Texans and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton have shifted to a run-first attack behind standout rookie running back Dameon Pierce. The Texans and Mills would be thrilled if he played to the same level as late last season. 

At this point, though, simply being consistent and fundamentally sound are the watchwords surrounding Mills, a third-round draft pick last season who has the 32nd-lowest passer rating (62.3) on third downs in the league heading into Thursday night's game. He's averaging 5.83 yards per passing attempt and 8.04 air yards per throw.

“I hope we get similar results to last year," Mills said. "I felt like last year when I was able to come back for the second time, I played really well at the end of the season. These past two weeks allowed me to sit back and continue to learn. Early on in the season and as the season progresses there’s a whirlwind of everything, as you play a game, watch the film immediately after the game and then you’re quickly on to the next opponent. 

In his last start against the Washington Commanders before being replaced by Allen, Mills completed 19 of 33 passes for 169 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions for a 46.1 passer rating. He rushed for a late touchdown, the first rushing score of his career.

Mills has 11 interceptions this season and 11 touchdown passes. He has clearly regressed since his rookie season.

By shifting back to Mills, who has 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, the 1-10-1 Texans get to further evaluate him heading into the offseason. Texans coach Lovie Smith previously emphasized that Mills' benching wasn't necessarily permanent, but was done at the time to try to give the team its best chance of winning. 

That scenario didn't work out as planned, though, as the Texans weren't effective at passing the football and were one-dimensional in both of the past two games as Allen had five turnovers.

The Texans are banking on Mills learning by watching and having worked on his process, mechanics and decision-making.

“I felt like over the past two weeks it was an opportunity for us to go back and really recalibrate some of the fundamentals," Hamilton said. Help him with his posture in the pocket, to help him throw from funnel positions, to better adapt to pushing the interior of the pocket and finding checkdowns. Those are things that don’t show up on the stat sheet, but those are things that will ultimately help him play winning football at some point.”

For the season, Mills has completed 61.9 percent of his throws for 2,144 yards for a 78.1 passer rating. He’s averaging an interception on 3.4 percent of his throws.

Nonetheless, his teammates still believe that Mills can get the job done. They've been bullish on him throughout the week and expressed confidence that their timing and chemistry will still be sharp.

"I never lost confidence in him, that's my guy," wide receiver Phillip Dorsett said. "He got a chance to sit back, watch and learn and observe and that's good for him. I know he's excited to be back. I can't wait to go out there and play for him.

Thinking about what he's been doing and trying to change his approach are important factors for Mills.

A lot of what has plagued Mills is overthinking and throwing into heavy traffic and forcing plays that aren't there. Living to fight another day is an analogy that's been broached frequently about Mills.

“Just going back to those fundamentals, shaping my thoughts pre-snap," Mills said. "Pep was talking to you about that acronym before. Just seeing what you need to see mentally and having that pre-snap checklist every play based on what play we’re given on offense. The biggest thing is simplifying everything, going out there and executing.”

As a backup, Mills was responsible for charting plays and helping support Allen. He embraced those duties during his demotion, according to Smith.

And Mills, if he was upset with the coaching staff for the demotion, didn't let it show. Instead, he used the time to reflect and reset. 

“I think that was the coaches’ decision to make at the time," Mills said. "Obviously, I want to be out there every snap, but that’s just not how it was. It’s great when you have a lot of trust in your teammates, and they have trust in you. That’s what it takes to win football games. I’m still a very confident football player. I didn’t lose any confidence in these two weeks, and I’m excited to get out there on Sunday.”

Mills will be playing without his top two wide receivers, Brandin Cooks and Nico Collins, due to injuries Sunday against a loaded Cowboys defense headlined by Micah Parsons.

 “A very talented defense, I know there’s a ton of stats that they kind of pride themselves on," Mills said. "Not giving up touchdowns in the first quarter and ending games really strong. We have a challenge ahead of us, but I think if we play a full game on offense, defense and special teams, we have a really good shot to go out and win it on Sunday.

Mills and Hamilton are hoping their collaboration can follow a similar pattern to a year ago. For that to happen, he'll need to take better care of the football and make accurate throws. Against the Buffalo Bills a year ago, the Texans lost 40-0 as he completed 11 of 21 passes for 87 yards, zero touchdowns and four interceptions for a career-low 23.4 passer rating. A week later, Mills passed for 312 yards against the Patriots with three touchdowns and no interceptions for a 141.7 passer rating.

"We don’t get too high with the highs and too low with the lows, but there is a human element to it, and you try and inundate them with football," Hamilton said. "More importantly, as a coach, we try and inundate our players with solutions and things we feel like can help them to realize their full potential. That’s what we’ve done with Davis."

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