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Davis Mills Texans
NFL

Should Texans Bench Davis Mills?

  • Justin Melo
  • November 14, 2022
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The Houston Texans dropped to a league-worst 1-7-1 following Sunday’s 24-16 defeat to the New York Giants. The Texans are heading toward clinching the No. 1 overall selection in the 2023 NFL Draft. Texans starting quarterback Davis Mills is struggling, but head coach Lovie Smith isn’t considering benching Mills nonetheless. Smith has the right idea given Houston’s lack of an adequate backup option.

“I just don’t think it’s time (to bench Davis Mills),” Smith told reporters following Sunday’s loss. “Simple as that. The quarterback position is a little bit different.”

Mills finished Sunday’s contest 22-of-37 (59.4% completion percentage) with 319 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. His performance was worse than the stat line indicates. Mills’ attempts routinely fell near the feet of his intended targets. Mills was sacked on four occasions and battled stretches of inaccuracy. The Giants’ exotic defense rattled Mills both pre-and-post snap.

Mills has completed 62.4% of his passing attempts this season, but Sunday marked Mills’ third consecutive contest under 60%. He’s throwing for an average of under 220 yards per contest (219.4). Mills has thrown at least one interception in four consecutive showings. The former Stanford product owns an adjusted quarterback rating of 32.5, per ESPN Stats & Info, which is the 30th-ranked mark across the league.

The Texans were an inefficient 3-of-10 on third downs. Mills spearheaded a Texans offense that mercifully went three-and-out on its opening three possessions. On 26 plays from scrimmage through two quarters, the Texans totaled a pathetic 86 yards, 44 of which were gained on a Dameon Pierce rushing attempt.

Mills’ numbers suffer from a dramatic dropoff when opposing defenses impact the pocket. Mills owns a completion percentage of 51.0% when under pressure, via Pro Football Focus. PFF awarded him with a passing grade of 47.0 under such conditions. Mills’ inability to maintain composure under duress is one of his many downfalls.

We’d advocate for the Texans to bench Mills had they rostered a better backup plan at quarterback. They don’t. Veteran journeyman Kyle Allen currently serves as Houston’s No. 2 quarterback. The 26-year-old Allen is playing for his third team since 2019. He originally entered the league as an undrafted free agent with the Carolina Panthers at the conclusion of the 2018 NFL Draft. Allen’s shortcomings were obvious as a pre-draft prospect, hence his undrafted status. 

Allen appeared in two of Houston’s exhibition contests. Throughout the preseason, Allen completed just 11-of-15 passing attempts for 107 passing yards and one touchdown. The sample size was small for Allen, who defeated Jeff Driskel in an undesirable battle for Houston’s backup quarterback spot.

Allen previously appeared sparingly for the Panthers and Washington Commanders. He’s thrown 24 career touchdowns and owns a career completion percentage of 63.1%. Allen hasn’t attempted a regular-season pass for the Texans this year and he certainly isn’t the answer to their quarterbacking woes.

It highlights the offseason failure of general manager Nick Caserio. Caserio should have seriously pursued an upgrade behind Mills knowing that the jury still remained out on his second-year quarterback. Mills has struggled, but the Texans don’t have a Plan B worth featuring.

The Texans are equipped with two first-round selections in April’s draft. Benching Davis Mills mid-season isn’t the answer, but it’s clear he’s not capable of being Houston’s quarterback of the future. Expect C.J. Stroud, Bryce Young or Will Levis to be quarterbacking the Texans in 2023.

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Justin Melo