Operating in tight quarters in the red zone Saturday morning, Texans rookie quarterback Davis Mills experienced some difficult moments while running the first-team offense against a veteran-laden defense.
Holding onto the football too long and not looking off his primary read led to a handful of interceptions, including safety Justin Reid picking off the strong-armed third-round draft pick from Stanford and returning it for a touchdown.
Mills did connect with rookie wide receiver Nico Collins for a touchdown as well as scores to tight end Jordan Mills and wide receiver Chris Conley. However, Mills was also picked off by Christian Kirksey, Reid twice, cornerback Bradley Roby and another time by safety Eric Murray off of a dropped pass by wide receiver Chris Moore.
“Obviously, we don’t want interceptions in practice, but it happens,” Texans coach David Culley said. “It was a red zone day. In the red zone, everything is tight. Every happens in a hurry. I thought he handled himself well. We got what we expected. We’ll make those corrections.”
The Texans are intrigued by Mills' potential. They like what they’ve seen from his approach to practice and meetings and how he’s thrown the football.
Mills’ arm strength, size and classic throwing mechanics are rare and intriguing enough that several NFL general managers and scouts have stated privately he would have likely been a high first-round draft pick next year if he had remained at Stanford for his senior year.
“That’s what training camp is all about,” Culley said. “It was a good test, a great learning experience for him. We don’t want interceptions in practice, but it happens.”
Signed to a four-year contract worth $5.22 million that includes a $1.157 million signing bonus, Mills had just 11 starts in college due to a knee injury. Playing in just five games last season, he was an honorable-mention All-Pac-12 selection who passed for 1,508 yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions. 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.
'It's good to show him how tough it is to play in the NFL,” Texans linebacker Christian Kirksey said. “We have all the confidence in him. It's training camp, everybody's trying to get better. I think he's going to be a great quarterback. You can tell from his mechanics, how sharp he is.”
Over the summer, Mills (6-foot-4, 235 pounds) said he’s encouraged by his initial steps into the NFL.
“I feel like I’ve done pretty well so far,” Mills said during a TriStar Productions autograph show at NRG Arena. “Obviously, it’s a new experience for me. Being in Houston, meeting all of the new teammates and coaches, I’ve definitely learned a lot so far. They’ve kind of thrown a lot at us pretty fast, so I’ve had to pick it up fast, at least what I could.
“We all kind of know this is the period where we’re all getting back into shape and really getting the feel of our teammates and route timing and the feel of the offense. It’s been great so far.”
Aaron Wilson has covered the NFL for 20 years and has previously written for The Houston Chronicle and The Baltimore Sun. He’s on Twitter: @AaronWilson_NFL and Instagram: @aaronwilson7128