HOUSTON -- Quarterbacks, nine times out of 10, receive blame for the faults of the offense. For the Houston Texans, maybe Davis Mills is one of the lone positives.
Finding consistency for the rookie is essential as the Texans move into Week 6. Just two weeks prior, Mills finished with four turnovers and less than 100 passing yards in a 40-0 loss to the Buffalo Bills.
A week later, there was a new arc to his game. Mills was the catalyst to the offensive success in a 25-22 loss to the New England Patriots. Take him out of the game, and Houston would’ve likely gone another week without scoring a touchdown.
The Texans are trying to decide on if Mills can be the driving force for the rebuild. A 1-4 season might seem negative on paper, but the positive is that Mills continues to improve week by week.
“You continue to see him learn from the little things and get better," receiver Brandin Cooks said. "He’s got the right mindset, and he’s going to continue to grow.”
Mills spread the ball around last Sunday at NRG Stadium. Cooks, the go-to No. 1 target, finished with three catches for 23 yards. Both Chris Conley and Chris Moore recorded at least one play of over 40 yards downfield and scored.
Mills finished the loss 21 of 29 for 312 yards and three touchdowns. He finished with a 141.7 passer rating and did not have a turnover for the second straight home appearance.
"It’s a testament to him and his capacity to be able to come and process and learn from those mistakes quickly," Texans offensive coordinator Tim Kelly said. "You saw last week that he went out there and played a pretty clean game."
Sunday marked the first time since 1970 that a rookie quarterback finished a game with over 300 yards passing a rating over 140. Keep in mind that the five quarterbacks drafted in the first round all were dubbed "franchise stars" while Mills battled along with former Florida quarterback Kyle Trask and Texas A&M starter Kellen Mond for the title of QB6.
Through five games, Mills has a higher QBR (37.5) than all rookies other than New England's Mac Jones (51.5). He also ranks second in passer rating (78.1), beating out names like Jacksonville's Trevor Lawrence and New York Jets' Zach Wilson.
Wins speak value to a team as a whole. Numbers focus on more of the individual performances. The growth and maturity from Mills in home games is a testament to his development under Kelly and pass-game coordinator Pep Hamilton.
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Hamilton's lived this life before in helping young quarterbacks thrive early. Some would turn to last season in which he helped Los Angeles Chargers star Justin Herbert set records on his way to winning Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Herbert was the latest, but not the first. During his time at both Stanford and with the Indianapolis Colts, Hamilton helped refine the work of Andrew Luck. His guidance as the Cardinal offensive coordinator propelled Luck to the No. 1 draft spot in 2012.
For the next three seasons, Hamilton would be in Luck's ear as the offensive coordinator in Indianapolis, helping make him a star.
Could the same happen for Mills in Houston?
“Tim and Pep have done a great job with bringing him along and doing the things in our offense that he’s comfortable with,” coach David Culley said. “The more he plays, the more comfortable he gets. He’s seeing things now a little better because he’s playing. Just want him to continue to do that.”
Culley said he wants the third-rounder to continue protecting the ball while also making good decisions.
Outside of a bad throw against the Cleveland Browns in Week 2 and a monsoon weather mishap in Buffalo, Mills has lived up to the expectations.
However, there are 17 games in a season. What works best in NRG must also correlate in games outside of the 713 area code.
“When you’re not turning the ball over, you have a chance to win the game," Mills said Monday. "That was the biggest step, just making smart decisions and giving my team a chance.”
The role of QB1 will likely return to veteran Tyrod Taylor when the team elects to elevate him off the injured reserve list.
Then again, the Texans need to decide if Mills is "the guy" moving into the rebuild. A strong outing at Lucas Oil Stadium could go a long way into the pros-and-cons list of why starting the rookie is best for the present status of the organization.
“I’m preparing like I’m the starter even if (I’m) not, but the biggest thing is just putting the team in a situation to win games," Mills said.