Sources: Texans go back to Davis Mills, original QB1, as starter for Cowboys game

Houston Texans quarterback Davis Mills warms up before an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans Sunday, Oct. 30, 2022, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith) (Eric Christian Smith, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

HOUSTON – The Texans have made another change at quarterback, going back to Davis Mills as their starter for Sunday’s road game against the Dallas Cowboys, according to league sources.

Mills was the Texans’ original QB1 this season before being replaced by Kyle Allen for a pair of underwhelming starts in losses to the Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins.

Texans coach Lovie Smith later confirmed the change at his Wednesday press conference, emphasizing that the team is hoping that Mills learned from his experience of observing the past two games from the sidelines.

“Our quarterback this week will be Davis Mills,” Smith said. “The reason why, we don’t give out lifetime jobs. It’s about performance each week. When Davis was the starter, sometimes you need another relief pitcher to come in. That’s what it was.

“Sometimes, you bring a relief pitcher in and if he’s doing well and you stay that course, but if it’s not the case. Davis will start for us this week and we expect watching from the sideline for two weeks to help.”

By having Mills observe for the past two games, Smith hopes that the experience of watching will be beneficial to the second-year quarterback from Stanford.

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

“As far as things you work on, to me, when you’re in that role, you’re going to do a lot of observing,” Smith said. “He’s going through all of those drills like all of our quarterbacks do, but it’s about looking at it from a different perspective. Situation from the sideline, normally, observing can help. Instead of you being the guy that’s always kind of under the gun a little bit, I know how he handled it. He was a pro about it. He switched roles with Kyle and did whatever he could to help as a backup quarterback. I know he’s excited about another opportunity.”

The Texans hold the top ranking on the priority list with the worst record in the league, but didn’t put in a waiver claim for quarterback Baker Mayfield and he was awarded to the Los Angeles Rams after being released by the Carolina Panthers. That was the expected scenario for the Texans regarding Mayfield.

Allen had five turnovers (four interceptions and one lost fumble) in those games and accounted for two scores against the Texans in the defeat to Cleveland as a tipped pass was intercepted and returned for a touchdown and his lost fumble on a quarterback sneak was returned for a score.

By shifting back to Mills, who has 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, the 1-10-1 Texans get to further evaluate the former third-round draft pick from Stanford heading into the offseason. 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.

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 regressed since his rookie season when he had nine touchdowns and two interceptions during the final five games of last year. He ranks third in the NFL in interceptions thrown.

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.

Smith said he’s not concerned about Smith’s confidence being shaken by the demotion.

“We were real about why we made the move and the reasons why,” Smith said. “We don’t give out permanent jobs. It’s about how you play each week. We put a lot into how the last performance was. Davis moved into a different role. He continued to be our captain. I think the second time around you kind of appreciate the position you’re in a little bit better. I know that’s the case.”

It wound up being a short-term change as Mills heads back to the starting lineup for Sunday’s game at AT&T Stadium.

Texans offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton said last week that the Texans are hoping for more consistency from Mills going forward.

“I think it’s going to come down to what we’ve talked about, just recognition, recognition of looks, as well as continuing to work to get his eyes and feet in sync,” Hamilton said. “I think when you look at some of the third-year quarterbacks, younger quarterbacks that are playing at a high level this season particularly, the guy (Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa) that we played, you see tremendous growth through experience.

“Sometimes, through adversity. Now that he’s played, I’m talking Davis, played in quite a few games,  I think when you step back and you self-evaluate you start to see that you’re close, but now it’s just a matter of being consistent.”

When Mills took over for veteran Tyrod Taylor last season, he showed encouraging signs. He passed for nine touchdowns and two interceptions in the final five games of last season as a rookie.

“When you’ve had an opportunity to play, sit back and come back, we’re hoping that’s the case,” Smith said. “When he came back the next time last year, he played a lot better. Normally if you’re a competitor when you’re not playing your best ball, I keep coming back to the baseball comparison.  Sometimes, you don’t have it and you need to take a step back.

“I know most of the time when guys come back you’re going to get their best and that’s what we need right now. It’s not just about the quarterback position, but starting off with ball security, we’re losing too many games just based on giving them the ball. And it starts with that position.”

Aaron Wilson is a contributor to KPRC2 and click2houston.com


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