Texans make it official, name Kyle Allen starting quarterback against Dolphins

Houston Texans quarterback Kyle Allen (3) on the sidelines during an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, Oct. 9, 2022, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Gary McCullough) (Gary McCullough, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

HOUSTON – Kyle Allen is officially the Texans’ new starting quarterback heading into Sunday’s road game against the Miami Dolphins as a struggling offense hopes he can create a spark.

It wasn’t a surprising announcement as the former backup was internally named the quarterback Wednesday with his status change reported Wednesday shortly after practice by KPRC-2 and other media outlets.

Texans coach Lovie Smith made the announcement formal Friday, though, days after making the switch Wednesday morning when the former University of Houston and Texas A&M quarterback was simply inserted with the first-team offense as the new starter with Davis Mills benched.

“Kyle Allen will start this week,” Smith said. “You always look for the best option. We’ve named a starter. To become a starter, we feel like you give us the best chance to win. Everything the quarterback position has to do: protecting the football, decisions in the pocket, all those things come into play with that. That’s why we’re in this situation now. I feel like when a guy is the starter, I feel like he should have an opportunity to really show exactly who he is.

“I feel like we have a body of work to go into it this way for this Miami game. What gives us the best chance to win against Miami? It’s short-term. Everything is short-term. We’re trying to get a win. We’re trying to play better football. This decision is based on that. Has he been named the lifetime starter? That’s not the case at all. This is what we think we need to do for this game.”

Mills will still be active and operate as the backup behind Allen.

Allen, who has previously played for the Washington franchise and the Carolina Panthers, has a 7-10 career record. The former blue-chip recruit from Arizona has passed for 4,318 yards, 24 touchdowns and 17 interceptions with a 63.1 completion percentage. Allen hasn’t started a game since the 2020 season with Washington when he broke his leg.

“There’s been a lot of adversity, this is the last start since I broke my leg,” Allen said. “Personally for me, this is a cool overcoming adversity moment, getting back on the field. Personally, it’s awesome. I’m excited.  Just execute, I don’t think there’s anything special that needs to be done or crazy.

“I just need to execute. I just need to make plays. Situational football is going to be huge. We’ve struggled in situational football. Hopefully, we can be good on third downs, red zone, two-minute, just stuff like that. Those areas are really important in a game. I’m just trying to help the team. I’m ready to play.”

Allen was signed to a one-year, $2.5 million contract with a maximum value of $3 million during the offseason. He played in two games last season and completed 12 of 19 passes for 120 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. The former undrafted free agent rushed for 11 yards on two carries.

Now, he’s the Texans’ QB1

“Well, it’s new, it’s fresh, it’s something we’re trying out,” Texans rookie running back Dameon Pierce said. “The whole team is behind this decision, including Davis. There’s no room for feelings or any room to try to make a case in this offense or this team in general. We rock with Kyle, we rock with Davis and he’ll get the full support of the offense, including Davis, behind him. Kyle is very acquainted with the offense.”

When asked how the offensive players can ease Allen’s transition, Pierce said it’s simple: by playing well.

“Make our plays,” Pierce said. “When we do get into rough waters, make sure we’re there to help him navigate and keep his head high, keep his confidence high and keep him rolling throughout the game. I like No. 3, that’s my dog. Ain’t nothing changed on my end. He’s the general now. We’re doing the same plays. We’ve got the same mindset, same formations, same calls. It’s just him throwing the ball now instead of No. 10. No love lost, we’re just ready to play ball.”

Allen (6-foot-3, 210 pounds) has an 84.9 career passer rating. He has 162 rushing yards and four touchdown runs. He was traded from Carolina to Washington in 2020 and started four games before breaking his ankle. As a freshman at Texas AA&M, he passed for 1,322 yards, 16 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Wide receiver Brandin Cooks, the Texans’ leader with 39 receptions for 461 yards and one touchdown on 66 targets, was nearly traded at the NFL deadline. Now, he’s catching passes from his second quarterback of the season.

“At the end of the day, it’s a game where you have to be able to adjust and stay on your toes,” Cooks said. “Individually, you’ve got to be able to react and adjust. I think (Allen) has been doing a great job all year, looking forward to his opportunity and looking forward to going out there and trying to help him.

“I would say jump-start that comes from all 11 of us on the field, not necessarily the quarterback, but all the guys around him to make plays. I’m not going to say that’s going to necessarily be the jump-start. We all have to play well for that to be the case. It’s seamless. They’ve both been doing a great job. I think all of us have had reps with Kyle and Davis.”

Allen passed for 3,532 yards, 33 touchdowns and 14 interceptions before transferring to Houston where he passed for 751 yards, four touchdowns and four interceptions before being replaced by Kyle Postma and declaring early for the NFL draft in 2018.

“Kyle can make all of the throws,” Smith said of Allen, who passed for 8,000 yards and 86 touchdowns in high school. “He has a history of good play in the NFL. He’s a veteran who’s been in situations. He gets rid of the ball quickly. There’s a lot of things to like about what Kyle has done. When he played in the preseason, with a limited amount of time, I thought he did a pretty good job.

“He has a body of work, too. What we’ve seen from him here is that he’s been here the entire time. He’s had all of the instruction all of our quarterbacks have had. He was able to play a little bit in the preseason. We’ve seen him there and we feel pretty confident about he can throw the ball. He’s mobile enough and he deserves the opportunity.”

Although the change had already been made, Smith repeatedly declined to name a starting quarterback during a press conference Wednesday, citing competitive advantage.

“I do not announce who is starting through the week,” Smith said. “We have a starting lineup, the last one that we have. When it changes, we’ll let you know. But during the week, of course we’re not going to announce anything like that.

“I think that would give the opponent an advantage. Our starting lineup, as far as you are concerned, and I would have said the same thing three weeks ago, it’s the same one until told otherwise.”

Like Smith, Texans offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, who was involved in the decision, declined to acknowledge Wednesday that Allen had been named the quarterback.

“No, we haven’t made any changes,” Hamilton said. “I will stay away from hypotheticals. I think all the guys on our gameday roster, we feel like they give us a chance to go and play competitive football.”

On Friday, Smith said of Mills: “How would any competitor feel? Of course, he’s not thrilled about it.”

Smith was noncommittal Monday on having Mills remain the starting quarterback and foreshadowed potential change at the position one day after indicating the second-year passer wasn’t being replaced.

Smith didn’t indicate anything definitively, citing the need to inform players before making public announcements, but hinted strongly that change is coming.

And Mills’ shortcomings provided another snapshot of his season-long struggles and the problems facing an unproductive offense engineered by Hamilton. The Texans mustered just five yards of total offense in the first half, their fewest net yards in a half in franchise history, during a 23-10 loss to the Washington Commanders. They had eight yards in the first half of a 40-0 loss to the Buffalo Bills last season. This marked the fewest net yards by an NFL team in a half since the Raiders’ minus-12 yards in a win over the Denver Broncos in 2015.

When asked for his evaluation of Mills, Smith reiterated that it would be difficult for any quarterback to perform well while being sacked five times. However, he didn’t attribute all of Mills’ issues to the heavy pressure generated by a talented Commanders defensive line.

“It’s a decision that coach made, he always does what’s in the best interest of the team,” tight end O.J. Howard said. “He felt like right now that was in the best interest of the team right now. You just roll with it. It’s a part of the game. There’s always changes. You have to have the next-man-up mentality.

“He’s a veteran so having that veteran leadership is kind of instinctual for him. He knows how to get ready for a game and how to prepare. I’ve noticed that from him. He’s been around. He has that veteran leadership and mentality.”

Mills stared down his primary read, Cooks, and was intercepted by Commanders cornerback Kendall Fuller as he undercut the telegraphed pass and returned it 37 yards for a touchdown on the second offensive play of the game. The miscue, a pick-six, was the first of Mills’ two interceptions Sunday. Although the game was sparsely attended, the Texans’ ineptitude was repeatedly met with loud boos.

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 clearly regressed since his rookie season when he had nine touchdowns and two interceptions during the final five games of last year.

“I think Davis is extremely talented,” Allen said. “Adversity, I think he’s going to respond to it great. I told him, ‘This isn’t over for you.’ I’ve been through it all. You just keep pushing through it. He’s a really good quarterback and a great person.

“Sometimes, stuff like this happens. I think Davis has done a great job with what he can do. Obviously, there have been some mistakes. At the quarterback position, turning the ball over is a killer. You learn from these mistakes and try to change.”

Smith was asked if he believes a team can get a spark from a personnel change. He sounded like a coach who’s ready to try something new with the Texans off to a 1-8-1 start.

“When you’ve lost as many games as we have, you’re searching for ways and things that may get the best out of maybe that person or the team in general,” Smith said. “I think there’s a place for that. Whether that’s a spark or not, if the effort isn’t what you want it to be, you look and see if there’s a better option.

“Sometimes, we looked at a better option earlier than others. That’s a part of the process. We’re in the second half of the season. We should know about what’s been put on video is probably who we are now. I acknowledge that.”

The pick-six was an example of Mills’ lack of progress.

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.

“It’s not just one soundbite that I can give you,” Smith said when asked why Mills was replaced. “It’s a lot of things. It’s a body of work. Roles change throughout the course of the year or the course of the game. We could need Davis sooner than later. It can be long-term or short-term. We feel good about going into the Miami game this way.”

Aaron Wilson is a contributor to KPRC 2 and click2houston.com

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