Texans name Davis Mills QB1 for rest of the season

Davis Mills was officially named the Texans' starting quarterback for Sunday's game against the Seattle Seahawks, and for the remainder of the season with coach David Culley making the anticlimactic announcement Friday morning.

The strong-armed third-round draft pick from Stanford replaces veteran Tyrod Taylor as the Texans' QB1.

The shift to Mills wasn't a surprise as league sources not authorized to speak publicly had indicated all week that Mills would start.

"Davis will be the quarterback,” Culley said during a press conference at NRG Stadium. “I felt like he gives us the best chance to win and going forward he will be the quarterback. It has nothing to do with Tyrod not being ready to play. It’s just we feel like that’s the best thing that gives us a chance to win.” 

Mills replaced Taylor during a 31-0 loss to the Indianapolis Colts last Sunday, and now he will make his seventh NFL start against Seahawks star quarterback Russell Wilson.

Houston Texans v Tennessee Titans

Photo: Getty Images

Mills completed 6 of 14 passes for 49 yards and a 52.4 passer rating Sunday in relief of Taylor. He didn't throw any interceptions.

Mills went 0-6 as the starter when Taylor was sidelined previously, but shined against the New England Patriots in a loss.

t's been the usual up-and-down progression of a rookie quarterback. Mills has passed for 1,406 yards, seven touchdowns and eight interceptions.

This amounts to a five-game audition for Mills to prove he should be the starter next year. If he excels, then he’ll have a prime opportunity to earn the starting job in 2022. After starting just 11 games in college due to injuries before declaring early for the draft, Culley believes 11 games as an NFL rookie should give the Texans plenty to evaluate.

“I think it will be a tremendous help for him,” Culley said. “The big thing for that is that he’s played six ball games. He got thrown into it in Cleveland and then he had to just go head-first. But I thought if he could do the things he did, and I expect him too, in the New England game which he played very, very well, good decisions, protected the ball, I feel like we will be fine. I wouldn’t say it’s an audition, we’re only looking for this season for him. Right now, all I’m looking for him to do is get us a win on Sunday.” 

The Texans have witnessed growth from Mills, and hope to keep evaluating him as he gets more experience.

“You can obviously make an evaluation, but the big thing again is seeing continued growth in whatever role, whether that’s as a starter or a backup," Texans offensive coordinator Tim Kelly said. "His ability on the practice field to be able and go and not make the same mistakes twice. We know he’s got the arm talent and the ability to make all the throws. So, it is just going to be about being consistent and being able to go out there and continually improve in whatever role that may be.”

Although Taylor hyperextended his left wrist in his non-throwing hand and experienced swelling, this was primarily a football decision because he's healthy enough to participate fully in practice all week and will operate as the backup. Taylor wore a glove on his left hand during practice.

Taylor has struggled in recent weeks since returning from a Grade 2 hamstring strain and the Texans' 2-10 record. Taylor has completed 60.7 percent of his passes, producing 966 yards, with five touchdowns and five interceptions.

“Well, you’ve seen the last three ball games we’ve played, hadn’t been good enough,” Culley said when asked why the team was replacing Taylor.

Taylor's hand swelled up Sunday and the injury affects his ability to grip the football when taking snaps from under center.

Taylor completed just 5 of 13 passes for 45 yards and one interception with a 16.5 passer rating against the Colts, and Culley was critical of his decision making and inability to protect the football this week in throwing an interception to safety Kenny Moore on the first offensive play of the game.

Taylor threw three interceptions during a loss to the Miami Dolphins.

How did Taylor handle the news that he was being benched?

“He’s a pro,” Culley said. “I mean he didn’t like the decision. I wouldn’t have liked it either, but this is a production business. On offense, it always starts at that position and we needed a spark, we needed a change and I made the change.”

Mills did have an intentional grounding penalty and nearly threw one interception that wide receiver Chris Conley prevented.

At 6-foot-4, 235 pounds, Mills has ideal size and above average mobility.

"When you look at some of the things that Davis does well, I think one of the better things he does do is throw on the run," Kelly said. "I think we’re fortunate to have two quarterbacks that are athletic enough to be able to move the pocket and do some things outside the pocket. While Davis probably hasn’t had the explosive flash plays that Tyrod has had in terms of scrambling and running with the football, he’s a capable athlete."

The Texans have the lowest scoring offense in the NFL, averaging 13.7 points per game.

Their drives on Sunday unfolded this way: Interception, fumble, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, turnover on downs, punt, punt, turnover on downs, turnover on downs. Seven of their 11 drives generated less than 10 yards.

Culley previously said that Taylor would be the starter for the remainder of the season, barring an injury.

Now, the situation has changed after the offense had just nine first downs and 141 yards of total offense and an average of 2.8 yards per offensive play.

Mills is needed to start again.

Texans veteran center Justin Britt said he’s seen definite progress from Mills since his first game against the Cleveland Browns when Taylor injured his hamstring while running for a touchdown.

“Obviously, we don't want Tyrod to go down, and I'm not going to speculate or talk about injuries, but when Davis stepped in, there was no waver,” Britt said. “The confidence is up there. We know that he can play. We know that he can command the offense, and he did just that.

“You could tell it in his eyes, his belief in himself and the offense, his job, what he's got to do. He's more comfortable, more poised. It speaks volumes to who he is, how he prepares. And I thought he came in and, commanded the offense and did all he could to try to get us in the end zone.”

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