Houston quarterback Davis Mills continues to struggle for the one-win Texans, but coach Lovie Smith isn’t ready to consider a change under center.
“I just don’t think it’s time,” Smith told reporters after Sunday’s 24-16 loss to the Giants. “Simple as that. Quarterback position’s a little bit different.”
Mills played poorly in the first half of a road game in New York. On the first play from scrimmage, the QB rolled off of play action and had an open O.J. Howard in the flat but came up woefully short on the pass. It was a harbinger of things to come for Mills, who spiked several balls in the dirt and never found consistent range deep against Big Blue’s disguised blitzes.
The Texans went three-and-out on its first three possessions, thanks partly to a few off-mark tosses from Mills and rookie running back Dameon Pierce getting stonewalled at the line. In the first half, Mills had 35 passing yards on 6-of-3 passing. On 26 plays through two quarters, the Texans had 86 total yards, 44 of which gained on a single Pierce run.
“You’ve got to sustain drives in order to see exactly what the game plan’s supposed to be,” Smith said. “And we weren’t able to do that.”
Mills got back on track in the second half, tossing for 319 yards on 22-of-37 with a touchdown and an interception, but much of that production came after the Texans were down double digits. It never felt like Houston threatened to upset Big Blue.
Part of Mills’ struggles comes from poor decisions. He fluctuates from making splash plays to not knowing when to give up on a route. His fourth-quarter INT in the end zone was emblematic of Mills’ sticking with a route too long and forcing a ball to a receiver who was never open.
“Sometimes when the deep route is covered, you check it down,” Smith said. “We can’t do that. That’s not good enough. We’re trying to get to (manageable) third downs, so you have to push the ball at least that (distance).”
Mills noted his interception, which came a play after a TD to Brandin Cooks was wiped out by a holding penalty, was a bad decision.
“I’ve got to be smarter with the ball there,” Mills said. “For second-and-25, we don’t need it all back at once. Trying to score, I can find the check down on that, get ourselves in third-down situations. (We’re) still in the red zone with a lot of plays at our disposal.”
The Texans entered the season planning to see what they have in the third-round QB before determining whether they would use a high draft pick on a quarterback. While Mills has shown flashes, he looks the part of a career-long backup who can win you a game here and there rather than a lift-all-boats franchise signal-caller.
But benching Mills makes little sense. No one needs to see what journeyman Kyle Allen can do. Barring catastrophe, it makes sense to stick with Mills and, at the very least, allow him on-field seasoning.
With each struggling week, the Texans get closer to the No. 1 overall pick and their choice of QB in the 2023 NFL Draft.
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