HOUSTON -- Texans starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor suffered a Grade 2 left hamstring strain against the Cleveland Browns and is expected to be sidelined for the next four weeks, according to a league source not authorized to speak publicly.
Taylor underwent a magnetic resonance imaging exam Monday that revealed the extent of the damage.
The Texans will start rookie quarterback Davis Mills, a third-round draft pick from Stanford, beginning with his NFL starting debut Thursday night against the Carolina Panthers.
The Texans are expected to promote Jeff Driskel from the practice squad to back up Mills.
Pro Bowl quarterback Deshaun Watson (standing trade request, legal problems) will continue to be inactive.
Taylor completed 10 of 11 passes for 125 yards and one touchdown for a 144.3 passer rating before getting hurt.
The injury changed the complexion of the game as the Texans lost, 31-21, Sunday to the Browns after building a 14-7 halftime lead with Taylor. It also dramatically changes the Texans’ quarterback situation as rookie Davis Mills replaced Taylor and was intercepted once and completed 8 of 18 throws for 102 yards, one touchdown and a 58.1 passer rating in his NFL regular-season debut.
"He showed exactly what he has shown throughout training camp for us," Culley said of Mills. "We know he's one of those guys who when a bad thing happens he comes back, he makes a play. He had that (interception and came back next series and played like we thought he would play. It never bothered him at all. Basically, that's what we expect for him."
A year ago with the Los Angeles Chargers, Taylor lost his starting job to Justin Herbert when a team doctor accidentally punctured his lung while giving him a pain-killing injection. In 2018 with the Browns, Taylor suffered a concussion and was replaced by Baker Mayfield.
“Losing No. 5 (Taylor) definitely hurts,” center Justin Britt said. “I do not think this is something that, with his career and history I do not think this is one of those scenarios. We trust him.”
Taylor was running away from Browns defensive end Myles Garrett when he got hurt.
Culley said the emergency quarterback isn't something he's sure about. If they had lost Mills to an injury against the Browns, Culley indicated he likely would have used running back Mark Ingram and run the Wildcat formation.
"Justin Reid is our emergency kicker," Culley said. "He's not our emergency quarterback."
A strong-armed third-round draft pick from Stanford, Mills had his moments during the second half of a loss to a playoff team from last season.
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Mills threw a touchdown pass to wide receiver Brandin Cooks. He also had a 35-yard completion to wide receiver Andre Roberts.
Culley expressed confidence in Mills' ability to run the offense.
“Very confident with him,” Culley said. “Our players when he went in there, I’m talking about they didn’t bat an eye. On our sideline, it was as if Tyrod was in there when he was in there. It was no different. We didn’t really do anything different.”
Mills got better as the game progressed. After the interception on a throw over the middle intended for Roberts, he settled down.
“That’s Davis, that’s the kind of quarterback he’s going to be,” Culley said. “A good lesson for him and a good experience for him to get, especially in this kind of ball game because if we would have made some plays out there, we would have a chance to be in position to win the football game. Part of that was because of him.”
A former blue-chip recruit from Atlanta who chose Stanford over Alabama and Michigan, Mills was was an honorable-mention All-Pac-12 selection who passed for 1,508 yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions in five games last season. He set a single-game school record with a 504-yard performance against Washington State. As a sophomore, he passed for 1,960 yards, 11 touchdowns and five interceptions.
Although Mills only started 11 games at Stanford due to a knee injury, he showed enough to impress the Texans and be drafted 67th overall.
“As the backup quarterback or the guy that is next up, you always have to be ready for anything to happen,” Mills said. “I felt like I did a good job. I can improve on some stuff. A lot to learn from, but overall I didn’t think I was too rattled or wasn’t ready for the moment.
“It is kind of just finding that rhythm. Obviously, I would have liked to start a little faster, but that comes with some experience. I’m looking forward to what’s next. I thought the whole team rallied. They had a ton of confidence in me. It allowed myself to go out there, have confidence and do my thing.”
Mills displayed poise and toughness while absorbing some hits, including a sack and forced fumble on a hit by safety Grant Delpit that was recovered by offensive tackle Marcus Cannon.
“Just going out there and playing and not letting the moment get too much for me,” Mills said. “I felt like I handled that well and I felt extremely proud of the guys around me. Obviously, I have a lot to learn from this game, my first true regular season game, so looking forward to the next one.”
It was a jolting hit by Delpit, a former Lamar High School standout who transferred to IMG Academy before signing with LSU.
“That one they got me that I didn’t see ended up popping out, I just have to kind of have my eyes ready for that and be able to read the pre-snap (keys) and expect where it’s coming from and go from there,” Mills said.
When Mills entered the huddle as Taylor’s replacement, he got a message from Britt.
“I told him we’re going to be all right,” Britt said. “We did not hesitate. He steps into the huddle and we gave him our full attention and let him control it. They brought him here for a reason.
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