HOUSTON -- Texans rookie quarterback Davis Mills will make the first start of his NFL career Thursday night against the Carolina Panthers.
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 league sources not authorized to speak publicly.
"Davis Mills will start the game, Tyrod will not play." Texans coach David Culley said of Mills on Tuesday morning. "He's ready."
Taylor underwent a magnetic resonance imaging exam Monday that revealed the extent of the damage. The Texans now have to decide whether to place him on injured reserve, which would involve missing a minimum of three weeks.
The Texans will 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 and will not be practicing.
Taylor completed 10 of 11 passes for 125 yards and one touchdown for a 144.3 passer rating before getting hurt.
READ MORE: Texans' Culley Admits Mistake vs. Browns
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.
"I mean he is ready," Culley said. "When he went in the game this past week, he executed very well.. He was sharp. I think he will be a lot more comfortable now."
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
“You feel for your guys," Texans wide receiver Brandin Cooks said Monday morning. "Everything that he puts into this game and to see him go down like that, it’s crushing. But knowing him, he’s built for it, he’ll find his way back and I bet you he’s grinding right now to come back as quick as he can.”
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.
"Really felt like he had some tough moments in the preseason," Culley said. "He's never gotten flustered.. I've gotten more flustered than he has in a ball game. I'm impressed with his maturity."
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.
Can Texans Defy Odds At Undefeated Cardinals?
The 1-5 Houston Texans head to the 6-0 Arizona Cardinals as heavy underdogs.
Texans Make 2 Roster Moves for Cardinals Game
Texans activate Kevin Pierre-Louis, elevate Cole Toner
Former Texans Pro Bowler To Make Giants Debut: NFL Tracker
Houston Texans Tracker for 2021: Check back often as we keep you up-to-date on Texans NFL news as Houston works on its roster-building
Mills threw a touchdown pass to Cooks. He also had a 35-yard completion to wide receiver Andre Roberts.
"I think you see how it is to be a rookie quarterback that has to get thrown into the fire right away in a hostile environment," running back Phillip Lindsay said. "But as he got more comfortable as things went on, he looked sharp, he looked good, and that’s what it is. Being in Denver, we had different quarterbacks all the time, and young ones, and that’s just how it goes.
"You’ve got to get your feet wet and you’ve got to get used to it, and Davis wasn’t the one taking all the reps at the beginning of the week. So, I’m excited to see what he does as time goes on. He’ll get better as time goes on, so that’s how it goes when you have a young quarterback.”
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.
“He showed exactly what he has shown throughout training camp for us," Culley said. "We know he’s always one of those guys that when a bad thing happens, he comes back, he makes a play. He had the (interception) there and came back the next series and ended up just playing exactly like we thought he would play, it never bothered him at all. And basically, that’s what we expect from him, to be able to play that way when the adversity comes. He’s had some adversity and he’s responded very well to that, and he did a good job of doing that."
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.
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."
The Texans have witnessed growth from Mills. How fast he's able to improve as a rookie starter will be pivotal to the Texans' chances.
“The times that he does get in there and practice, he has a command of the offense and the huddle," Cooks said. "A lot more vocal, a lot more confident in that aspect. And just not being quiet, but steps up and talks when he needs to. So when you see that from a young guy and see that build every single day from spring camp until now, that’s been huge.”