The Texans are making another change at quarterback, going back to Davis Mills as their starter for Sunday's road game against the Dallas Cowboys, according to league sources.
Mills was the Texans' original QB1 this season before being replaced by Kyle Allen for a pair of underwhelming starts in losses to the Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins.
The Texans hold the top ranking on the priority list with the worst record in the league, but didn't put in a waiver claim for quarterback Baker Mayfield and he was awarded to the Los Angeles Rams after being released by the Carolina Panthers. That was the expected scenario for the Texans regarding Mayfield.
Allen had five turnovers (four interceptions and one lost fumble) in those games and accounted for two scores against the Texans in the defeat to Cleveland as a tipped pass was intercepted and returned for a touchdown and his lost fumble on a quarterback sneak was returned for a score.
By shifting back to Mills, who has 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, the 1-10-1 Texans get to further evaluate the former third-round draft pick from Stanford heading into the offseason. Texans coach Lovie Smith previously emphasized that Mills' benching wasn't necessarily permanent, but was done at the time to try to give the team its best chance of winning. That scenario didn't work out as planned, though, as the Texans weren't effective at passing the football and were one-dimensional in both of the past two games.
In his last start against the Washington Commanders before being replaced by Allen, 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 regressed since his rookie season when he had nine touchdowns and two interceptions during the final five games of last year.
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 at the time. “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."
And it wound up being a short-term change as Mills heads back to the starting lineup for Sunday's game at AT&T Stadium.
Texans offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton said last week that the Texans are hoping for more consistency from Mills going forward.
“I think it’s going to come down to what we’ve talked about, just recognition, recognition of looks, as well as continuing to work to get his eyes and feet in sync," Hamilton said. "I think when you look at some of the third-year quarterbacks, younger quarterbacks that are playing at a high level this season particularly, the guy (Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa) that we played, you see tremendous growth through experience.
"Sometimes, through adversity. Now that he’s played, I’m talking Davis, played in quite a few games, I think when you step back and you self-evaluate you start to see that you’re close, but now it’s just a matter of being consistent.”
Smith was extremely lukewarm on Allen when asked about his status Monday following the loss to the Browns.
Against the Browns, Allen struggled mightily. He was intercepted twice. He threw one late touchdown pass to Nico Collins, but connected on just three of 10 targets to the second-year wide receiver. Allen looks out of sync with the offense during the 27-14 loss at NRG Stadium as the Texans managed to lose despite not allowing one offensive touchdown.
“Kyle was the quarterback of our offense (Sunday)," Smith said. "We didn’t get anything done offensively, so it’s pretty hard to talk about many of the good things that anybody on that side of the ball did. Kyle is a part of that, and as we go forward, I’ve seen the video of course a few times, and the play at the quarterback position wasn’t good enough."
When asked if he will name Mills, who has 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, the starter again, Smith didn't confirm or deny that's happening.
“Guys, you kind of know how we do it right now," Smith said. "On a Monday afterwards, we can talk about that play right there. Things get out a little bit quick around here, so if there’s a change that we’re going to make at any position, you guys will know it right away. But first, I’m going to talk to the guys about all of the things that we’re going through at all positions.”
Allen completed 20 of 39 passes for 201 yards for a 53.5 passer rating. Allen's first interception was caused by rookie tight end Teagan Quitoriano not being able to secure the throw and it popped into the hands of Browns safety John Johnson in the first quarter. The interception was signaled after an instant replay challenge from Browns coach Kevin Stefanski.
The Texans' offense was terrible, as it has been for most of the season as the lowest-scoring offense in the league.
They manufactured just 16 first downs and 283 yards of total offense, averaging 4.6 yards on 61 total plays.
“No team in the league would win if you made some of the mistakes we made," Smith said. "Just some of the plays you don’t make. Can’t give up 14 points on the offensive side of the football, and you can’t really give up 10 points with the special teams. That puts you in a hole that’s really tough to get out of. Our passing game was off, throws to the receivers and just protecting the football.
"I talk about things you do wrong, of course the turnover ratio normally tells the story a little bit. Offensively, the interception for a touchdown, the fumble when we were backed up. We’ve got to make it a lot harder on opponents to score that way. These are things we need to clean up."
Overall, the Texans are looking for sounder decisions from the quarterback position.
“As we look back to a couple of weeks ago, a lot of it comes down to the decisions you make at that position," Smith said. "A lot of them you have to make pretty quickly. Looking at that screen that we had, sometimes it’s okay to just live to see another day, whether it’s taking a sack or throwing the ball away, but not throwing the ball where you don’t have a clear vision.
"The other two we had issues with just quarterback-center exchange. That shouldn’t be something that we’re having a problem with. Even the quarterback-running back exchange, those are things that we should be able to clean up, and we’ll need to. Two weeks in a row right now we’ve had some of those things that have really hurt us.”
Aaron Wilson is a contributor to Sports Talk 790.