If there was hope for the future to be found anywhere in the Houston Texans' dismal season, it was Davis Mills. The rookie quarterback piloted two of the team's four wins over the final month of the season, and after being given the starting nod in Week 14, he threw nine touchdown passes with only two interceptions down the stretch.
New Houston Texans coach Lovie Smith saw plenty of Mills as the club's defensive coordinator last year, and is keenly aware of the rookie's promise.
"For us, of course, Davis Mills came in and did some good things. You know, when you're not the starter, you get a chance to go against the (first) defense each week, so I got a chance to see him in a lot of different situations," Smith said Wednesday on Good Morning Football. "He played about as well as any of the rookie quarterbacks did last year. So (I'm) excited about some of the things that he can bring."
Mills' first shot as a starter last year, in replacing an injured Tyrod Taylor, came with the growing pains expected for a rookie. He threw four interceptions in Buffalo, two more in Indianapolis, and didn't win a game over his first seven starts. He flashed impressively in a loss to the New England Patriots with a robust QB rating of 141.7 while throwing for three scores on 21-of-29 passing, however, showing promise as a third-round draft pick. Later in the year, when former coach David Culley installed Mills as the starter in a developmental move, he was far more consistent despite being surrounded by a porous offensive line and a lack of firepower at the skill positions. Smith has promoted Pep Hamilton from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator, giving Mills a familiar face to work with for his second year in the league.
"I've known Pep Hamilton for a long period of time," Smith said, per the team web site. "It's kind of a perfect storm for him to lead our offense."
It remains to be seen whether the club selects a quarterback early in the draft despite the upward-pointing arrow on Mills; the Texans hold the No. 3 overall pick, which could be too soon for a quarterback draft class considered subpar compared with recent years. Meanwhile, Taylor is a free agent this offseason. As for embattled Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, who is facing 22 civil lawsuits stemming from allegations of sexual misconduct, Smith was as non-committal as his predecessor. Watson requested a trade last offseason, and was designated inactive for every game last year.
"First, on Deshaun Watson and what happens with that, in time, things work themselves out. There's a lot of things we have to get through with it," Smith said. "It's the reason Deshaun didn't play this past year. … We'll see how the Deshaun Watson deal ends up."