A topsy-turvy NFL season continued to surprise on Week 16, with one of the more surprising results of the year coming thanks to Davis Mills and the Houston Texans, who throttled the visiting Los Angeles Chargers by a final score of 41-29. The win improved the Texans’ record to 4-11, while it dropped the Chargers’ season record to 8-7, taking them out of playoff positioning for the moment.
Mills turned in an efficient showing for the Texans in the win, completing 21 of 27 passes for 254 yards and a pair of touchdowns, without an interception. His first touchdown pass came on a perfectly-throw deep ball, targeting Chris Conley on the go route along the right sideline:
Mills drops the throw in perfectly, putting it into the bucket for the touchdown before halftime.
His second touchdown pass came later in the game, as he targeted Nico Collins between a pair of defenders in the red zone:
The touchdown was the first of Collins’ NFL career, and looks to be a sight adjustment by the quarterback as he throws the backside slant against single coverage rather than handing the football off against a stacked box. This is something that you will see quarterback do against heavy boxes, and for more on the sight adjustment you can read this piece on Aaron Rodgers.
On this play, the Chargers have nine defenders in the box with a “deep” safety lurking about nine yards downfield, but with the cornerback giving Collins an inside release, Mills throws the slant and his receiver takes the ball to the end zone for six.
Mills was one of the quarterbacks who generated a little buzz late in the pre-draft process last spring. With questions about who would be the sixth quarterback taken after the top five, Mills was mentioned as a player who could perhaps sneak into the end of the first round. He checked in as the seventh-ranked quarterback in Touchdown Wire’s pre-draft rankings, and here is what we had to say about him in the spring:
His competitive toughness has me believing in him, as I am not going to miss on a player who checks that box. I think there is an NFL future ahead of Mills, and one as a starting quarterback. But he will need the right path and the right landing spot to reach that goal. I think teams with a critical need behind an entrenched starter would be smart to draft Mills sometime later on Day Two, teams like the Tennessee Titans or the Atlanta Falcons if they decide to pass on a QB early in the draft. Those offenses might also be ideal for Mills’ skill-set, as they rely heavily on play-action and schemed shot plays downfield. I think he fits best in more of a ball controlled West Coast system, and those two landing spots could be ideal.
Given what Mills has done to this point, there is a case to be made that he has earned the right to be Houston’s starting quarterback when 2022 season begins. The Texans are slated to have a pick at the top of the first round, but with uncertainty over the incoming class of rookie passers, the organization could address another player and add an elite talent with that selection, and try and build around the quarterback position and see how Mills handles it as the incumbent starter in 2022. With what he has shown to date, that looks like a smart plan for Houston.
Of course, there is the Deshaun Watson situation that remains unresolved, but what Mills has done this year certainly gives the Texans a number of options going forward.