HOUSTON -- There are expectations and then there is reality.
The expectation is rookie quarterback Davis Mills will soon be able to start for the Houston Texans offense, and maybe even someday develop into the next franchise guy.
The reality is that the season is still far away, and everyone needs time - and on Saturday, Mills looked like "time'' is something he needs a great deal of.
Projected starter Tyrod Taylor (excused absence) was not present Saturday for Day 4 of Texans training camp. Instead, third-rounder Mills, the team's first draft pick of 2021, saw an increase of reps.
The Texans do not have a depth chart as of this time. There is no first-team or second-team offense on paper. That said, Mills was working with names like Brandin Cooks and Jordan Akins more today than in the past.
It's certainly a day he'll look back and remember as his "Welcome to the NFL" moment.
Overall, Mills looked like a mid-round rookie quarterback at one of his first days at work. Not every play was bad, and it can be argued that there was something to build off during the afternoon in front of fans at Houston Methodist Training Center.
During team work, Mills threw a pair of interceptions in the direction of Justin Reid. The fourth-year defender, who is entering the final year of his rookie deal, sprinted down the sideline both times - meaning a pair of pick-sixes.
Maybe that's a testament to coordinator Lovie Smith's defense rather than Mills' poor performance? Maybe both?
“It was a red-zone day," Texans coach David Culley said. "The thing about a red-zone day is everything’s tight and happens in a hurry. It’s so much faster, and adjustments happen so quick you don’t have time to think about it, and you just react.”
Along with the two interceptions, there also were several key drives ending in scores. Mills found Chris Conley towards the back of the end zone on one rep for a touchdown. He connected with Jordan Akins across the middle of the field in tight coverage.
During practice reps, Mills was in-sync with fellow rookie Brevin Jordan. The 10-9 connection could be a building block at NRG Stadium for years to come - given time and the development of consistency.
Based on first glance; As much of a struggle as it was, fans shouldn't buy into the negative hyperbole surrounding Mills' mistakes. This was his first full day leading an offense. It also was the first time since 2019 fans have seen him live in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“That’s what training camp is all about,” Culley said after practice. “It was a good test, a great learning experience for him. We don’t want interceptions in practice, but it happens."
Even during the draft process, Stanford coach David Shaw said Mills' growth would take time, and that had he stayed in college for another year, he might've been the top NFL QB prospect of 2022.
“If Davis Mills has the full 12 games and not the six we played this year, I think we’re talking about him in the mix with that five,” Shaw told NFL Network's Rich Eisen in April. “If he comes back for another year, then you’re talking about the best quarterback in America and now you’re talking about a Top 5, Top 10 pick.”
So, maybe he's a year ahead. That's fine for now as Taylor, who will be 32 next week, already is accustomed to what Culley and pass-game coordinator Pep Hamilton are looking for offensively.
When practice concluded, Mills walked over to the other practice field with veteran backup Jeff Driskel. The two spent the next 20 or so minutes working on throwing accuracy.
Shaw said Mills has the makings of a franchise quarterback. Extra reps after practice in Texas heat is a sign in the right direction.
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Collins Continues To Impress
It looks like GM Nick Caserio was smart when trading up last April to get Nico Collins.
Every day, Collins has made at least one notable play. On Saturday, he showed not only his strength, but also his skill as a consistent route-runner when working both seven-on-seven drills and team reps.
After practice, Collins was working with one of the coaches on his route-running. He's putting an emphasis on finishing in stride throughout his catch.
It's early, and the Texans still have Brandin Cooks as the likely top weapon, but every team needs a No. 2. Collins has cemented himself as a contender for that spot.
READ MORE: Texans Camp: Keep Eye On These Houston WRs
O-Line Not a Problem?
If Texans fans can take anything away from Culley's time in Baltimore, it's that he loves to run the ball. The Ravens finished the last two seasons with the top rushing attack, that in large part due to MVP and dual-threat quarterback Lamar Jackson.
It'll take time for the offensive line to mesh in pass protection, but the run blocking has been on-point. Every player looks comfortable and cohesion likely continues to grow with more reps.
During team drills, both Mark Ingram and Philip Lindsay scored in the red-zone offense. It wasn't about the work from the runners, but rather the blocking in the trenches upfront. Ingram went untouched and Lindsay needed to make one cut to score.
Tytus Howard continues to impress no matter his spot. So does Charlie Heck, the team's fourth-round tackle out of North Carolina. Culley says that those two could both find a way into the starting lineup Week 1.
“We want to move those guys around,” Culley said. “Going into training camp, we told those guys up front we were going to have them all over the place. Basically, you’ve got to play multiple positions. We do that to see what’s the best fit."
The offensive line has been an issue of the past. Maybe it's a strength in 2021?
Reid Shows Why Contract Extension Could be Looming
Reid continues to show that he's worth a contract extension. Naturally, two interceptions in practice help, but he also looked more natural in coverage while maintaining that physical demeanor.
There's no denying he is one of the leaders of the defense. In a revamped secondary, Reid adds value both against the run and deep downfield in the new Tampa 2 defense.
More than anything, he looks like he's having fun playing in the new defensive approach.
“He’s back there at that safety position, and he sees everything,” Culley said. “He’s flying around all over the field. He’s back there for a reason. He’s going to be around the ball and make plays.”
Plays like Saturday on Sunday afternoons will lead to a payday. With a rebuild on the horizon, Caserio and Culley need to find the next faces of the future. Reid needs to be at the top of that list when it comes to securing long-term deals before the start of 2022 free agency.