Tyrod Taylor starts 1st game for Texans as Deshaun Watson's replacement

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Tyrod Taylor took his first game snaps as the Texans' new starting quarterbackSaturday nightand the replacement for embattled and disgruntled Pro Bowl passer Deshaun Watson.

Taylor completed all four passes on the Texans' opening drive for 40 yards as he completed three of them to wide receiver Chris Conley for 36 yards. The drive was capped by kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn's 37-yard field goal.

"I think it was productive," Taylor said. "We were able to make some plays, move the ball down the field. Obviously, you want to finish with a touchdown, but anytime you get points you can't really get mad about that. It's something to clean up on third down.

"We've got to execute in all phases. Seven instead of three in those areas are critical. Anytime you get in the red zone, you want to come out with a touchdown in that situation. To move the ball right down the field was a strong point for us and a positive for us."

Taylor was replaced by rookie quarterback Davis Mills after one drive. Mills went three-and-out on his first drive as he was sacked once and threw incomplete once on an end-zone throw intended for wide receiver Anthony Miller.

"I thought Tyrod managed the game well, the one series that we had," Texans coach David Culley said. "It didn't feel like we finished that drive. We had a 3rd-and-2 down there and we ended up having to kick the ball. We can't have field goals in that situation. We've got to have touchdowns in that particular situation. Other than not being able to get us a score there, a touchdown, I thought he did exactly what we wanted him to do."

Meanwhile, Watson didn't travel with the Texans and is listed fourth on the unofficial depth chart.

Multiple players didn't play for the Texans, including four players on the reserve-COVID-19 list (offensive tackles Laremy Tunsil, Tytus Howard and Roderick Johnson and cornerback Bradley Roby) along with defensive end Charles Omenihu (hip), tight end Jordan Akins (lower leg tightness), running back Dontrell Hilliard, cornerback Cornell Armstrong, linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis (concussion protocol) and Pro Bowl kick returner Andre Roberts. Several other key players are also not expected to play for precautionary reasons.

With Tunsil and Howard sidelined Charlie Heck started at right tackle, Max Scharping at right guard, Justin Britt at center, Justin McCray at left guard and Geron Christian at left tackle.

Houston Texans v Green Bay Packers

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"When we left to come up here, they seemed to be doing well," Culley said of the players who have tested positive for COVID. "Nothing serious. They have the symptoms. Obviously, there's protocol when you have the symptoms and we'll take it from there. As we've always said, it's the next man up. When the next guy comes up, he does his job. The positive thing about moving guys around in training camp we've got guys who can play all across the board."

On defense, the Texans started Vernon Hargreaves, Terrance Mitchell, Lonnie Johnson Jr., Eric Murray and Desmond King in the secondary and Ross Blacklock, Vincent Taylor, Jacob Martin and Jordan Jenkins across the defensive line with Neville Hewitt starting at linebacker next to Kamu Grugier-Hill.

A one-time Pro Bowl selection with the Buffalo Bills, Taylor, 31, was signed to a one-year, $12.5 million contract this offseason after Watson issued a standing trade request after signing a $156 million contract extension last September. Watson is also facing 22 civil lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct and/or sexual assault and is the subject of 10 criminal complaints filed with the Houston Police Department with no charges filed or indictments issued. His lawyer, Rusty Hardin, has denied wrongdoing by Watson on behalf of his client.

Known for his accuracy, mobility and work ethic, Taylor is off to a good start with his new team after signing a one-year contract with a maximum value of $12.5 million.

“I mean, it's been great," Texans offensive coordinator Tim Kelly said of Taylor's assimilation. "With his professionalism, he comes in, he wants to be great. He wants to come in and know exactly what's going on. He's got command of the entire offense. Again, just the way he approaches every single day, it's been really good for me. It's been really good for everyone in the room.”

Taylor lost his starting job last season when a Los Angeles Chargers team doctor accidentally punctured his lung while administering a pain-killing injection. That led to Justin Herbert replacing the former Baltimore Ravens sixth-round draft pick from Virginia Tech and eventually emerging as the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

“He’s a consummate pro, and I don’t use that loosely,” Texans coach David Culley said. “He's the first guy in this building every morning and he's usually the last guy to leave and that's every day and that's just who he is. You'll never hear him doing a whole bunch of talking about this and talking about that. He just goes about his business.”

Taylor passed for 2,799 yards, 14 touchdowns and four interceptions and rushed for 427 yards and four scores in 2017 in Buffalo with Culley on Sean McDermott’s coaching staff.

Taylor has the third-lowest interception rate since 2011 with interceptions thrown on just 1.4 percent of his throws with 20 interceptions during a decade in the NFL. Taylor is a multidimensional passer who can beat defenses with his feet and his arm, rushing for 1,850 yards and 16 touchdowns and passing for 9,770 yards and 54 touchdowns.

"Comfortable in the offense," Taylor said. "TK does a great job of calling it to the players' strengths at a high level and obviously it's up to us to execute. It's up to us to do that."

Aaron Wilson has covered the NFL for 20 seasons, including the Texans, Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars. He has previously written for The Houston Chronicle and The Baltimore Sun. He’s on Twitter: @AaronWilson_NFL and Instagram: @aaronwilson7128.

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