Football season will be here sooner than you think. The time for tailgating at a Cougars game, hitting the sportsbook for NCAAF betting, and yes, watching the Houston Texans on your big-screen TV.
Yes, the NFL franchise has fallen on hard times — winning only four games each of the past two seasons. Even with Deshaun Watson out of the picture, the Texans are still embroiled in his problems with investigators seeing if the organization helped “cover up” Watson’s alleged crimes. But for one moment, let’s try to be optimists, shall we?
Quarterback David Mills is Watson’s heir apparent and has been since early last season. He showed flashes of greatness during the 2021 season, which raises the questions, is Mills for real? Can he really be trusted to be a franchise centerpiece? Or is he merely holding the seat warm for an eventual replacement drafted later on? Let’s find out!
Mills overachieved during his 2021 rookie season with the Texans. The quarterback threw for 16
TDs, 10 interceptions, and 2,664 yards.
Courtesy of NFL Mock Draft
Potential Shown In 2021, Especially Late
Mills was selected in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Sure, most expected him to eventually get snaps as starter but not as fast as he did. Day-one starter Throd Taylor went down in Week 2, which opened the door for Mills.
As you might expect a then 22-year-old rookie under center, he struggled out of the gate. In Mills first six starts, he had a TD-interception ratio of 7:8. Houston tallied a meager 61 points during that stretch — just a hair above 10 per game. Of course, all the games resulted in losses. Tyrod Taylor eventually returned and became the starter once more.
It appeared the Mills era was over as quick as it began — but wait, not so fast. Mills would regain the starting spot in the final five games of the season. He tossed nine touchdowns to only two interceptions, helping Houston to a combined 116-point output (23.2 per game). This came against decent competition too, including the likes of San Francisco, LA Chargers, and Tennessee.
The hope is Mills can carry the momentum from last season’s final games into 2022. Going into this year, he’s firmly entrenched into the team’s plans as its starter and the extra preparation should help, as well as playing experience from 2021.
Supporting Cast Isn’t Bare
Of course, Mills can’t do it all. Football is the ultimate team sport and his supporting cast will need to take the “next step” of their own.
If offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil can stay healthy, he’ll protect Mills’ blind side. Tunsil was on the field for just under 25 percent of snaps taken by the Texans all of last year. Without him manning the left side of the pocket, Mills was left to run for his life more times than not — making his job all the more difficult.
As for pass catchers, Mills will have the benefit of throwing to Brandon Cooks and the rising Nico Collins. Cooks is the unquestioned No. 1 threat. Amazingly, he’s posted six different 1,000 receiving seasons with four different teams. And he’s not even 29 years old yet.
Brandin Cooks is entering year three with the Texans. In each of his first two seasons, he’s
caught for over 1,000 yards.
Courtesy of Houston Chronicle
Collins was a rookie counterpart of Mills last year. Also a third-round pick, Collins hauled in 33 catches and 446 yards a year ago. Whereas Cooks has burner speed, Collins is a big-body possession receiver. Both wide receivers are a perfect blend of physicality and speed.
Mills will have the benefit of having chemistry with both already — and not having to build it on the fly. Throw in a full offseason together and this trio could make some noise together.
New Offensive System In Place
Cooks, Collins, and Mills will not have the benefit of carrying over the exact same offensive system used a year ago. That’s because head coach David Culley was one-and-done. Replacing him is Lovie Smith, who served as the team’s defensive coordinator in 2021.
Smith, of course, isn’t an “offensive guy.” But he’s given the keys to offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton. But here’s the thing: Hamilton was Mills quarterback coach in 2021. So while changes will be implemented, the system is being created with Mills’ skill set top of mind. Hamilton is big on running the ball, which should take the burden of Mills.
It might not seem like it, but the Texans are vastly ahead of where they were this time last year — particularly under center. Come off the ledge because this team might be full of positive surprises this season.