Things are not going as planned for the 2022 Houston Texans offense.
The team sits at 0-3-1 under their new head coach Lovie Smith and is the NFL’s only remaining winless team as the league enters the Week 5 slate of contests. For all the bright young players shining on defense such as rookies Jalen Pitre & Derek Stingley, the offense has been equally lackluster.
Houston’s offense ranks 25th in total points and total yardage and has come under fire for many components that had fans excited in the off-season. Star wide receiver Brandin Cooks, fresh off a 2-year contract extension at $19M per year, looks to have lost a step. Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton has been criticized for a lack of offensive creativity and an over-commitment to veteran running back Rex Burkhead. Of course, this same criticism has extended to Davis Mills.
Mills appears to have regressed from the bright showings that peppered the end of the 2021 campaign. His completion percentage is down from 66.8% to 62% this season, his touchdown to interception ratio is down from 1.6 to 1.2, and his quarterback rating has plummeted from 88.8 to 80.4.
That's the prettiest throw I've seen Davis Mills make in his career. Phenomenal ball to hit Nico Collins down the field.
Houston might just make this one a game #WeAreTexans
— John Crumpler (@JohnHCrumpler) October 2, 2022
The occasional flashes of great play are still present, fans were reminded of Mills great talent late during the Chargers game on a back-to-back sequence where Mills fired 58-yards to Nico Collins and then a 16-yard touchdown to Brandin Cooks on the next play. However, these haven’t been enough to outweigh the general shortcomings of the offense and some other plays that have sunk the team.
Houston had opportunities to win against Indianapolis, Denver and Chicago late in the fourth quarter and in all three opportunities the quarterback was unable to complete a game-winning drive. The Bears game was particularly devastating as Mills was picked off by linebacker Roquan Smith when targeting Burkhead on a checkdown.
Davis Mills Confidence Meter
Driven by the fans.
First fan voting is complete, with 55% of the votes coming in at 30% confidence in Mills.
Thank you to those who voted, hope to do this weekly. pic.twitter.com/AziRZP8AZs
— TexansCap (@TexansCap) October 5, 2022
The drop-off in play in conjunction with the Texans’ status as the league’s worst team has led many to call for Houston to begin heavily scouting Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud and 2021 Heisman winner Bryce Young from Alabama. Some have gone as far as to say that Lovie Smith should consider benching Mills for backup quarterback Kyle Allen.
Despite the disappointment of the team’s first month and the potential greatness of some of the quarterbacks coming out, this remains a huge overreaction.
The book is far from closed on Mills and the opportunity to change the narrative around his status as the team’s potential franchise quarterback and the 2022 season is still present.
Mills has 13 more starts to prove to Smith and general manager Nick Caserio that he deserves another year at the position despite inevitably missing the playoffs due to the team’s overall talent deficiency. This week’s game against the 2-2 Jacksonville Jaguars represents an excellent chance for that campaign to begin.
The Jaguars look vastly improved in 2022, second-year peer Trevor Lawrence has emerged as the quarterback many expected him to be exiting Clemson and the defense looks like one of the league’s best. Jacksonville ranks 5th in the league in points allowed and 3rd in forced turnovers fueled by young pass rushers Josh Allen and Travon Walker.
— NFL (@NFL) September 11, 2022
The Texans were able to dominate Jacksonville last season, accounting for 2 of their 4 total wins on the season and baffling Lawrence during his disastrous rookie campaign. A year later, the win looks far from the guarantee it felt like last season.
Mills threw for 209 yards and 2 touchdowns during the team’s 30-16 win last year in Jacksonville and now returns for a chance to potentially save the narrative on the 2022 Texans before entering their bye week. A win would place Houston just one win behind Jacksonville and Indianapolis, firmly in the division hunt in a hilariously week AFC South. A loss would place Houston in the driver’s seat for the first overall pick and likely 12 miserable weeks of remaining football.
A huge showing for the second-year quarterback could not only dispel narratives around the team but also for himself. Historically, Mills has struggled on the road compared to how he performs at home. Many also question his relative talent compared to first round quarterbacks. A win on the road against ‘generational’ prospect Trevor Lawrence could go a long way towards quelling the debate that’s raging in Houston amongst the future of their offense.
Flashes of talent have never been the problem for Mills, it’s simply a matter of consistency. A road contest in Jacksonville represents an incredible opportunity to flip the narrative on people’s current perception of both the team at large and his status at quarterback. The upset could also signal that Jacksonville isn’t quite the AFC playoff contender that many have them penciled in as.
It will ultimately be up to Mills and Hamilton to dictate how they want their offense to work and to elevate them from their current status. Sunday should go a long way towards signaling if they’re capable.