It’s been an up-and-down rookie season for Davis Mills, but over the past few weeks he’s been able to establish a rhythm and get Houston rolling on offense.
Mills has excelled against cover 3, where he frequently exploited the Seahawks while getting three first downs and averaging a 13.4 average depth of target. In their win against the Jaguars he completed seven passes, threw one touchdown, and had one first down against cover 3.
When facing cover 0 in Week 15, Mills has an 85.6 passing grade, 76 yards, and one touchdown on a screen to end the game to Brandin Cooks. Mills is actually the best out of any rookie quarterback throughout the whole season against in cover 0 with an 81.5 pff grade, which is 24.5 points higher than Zach Wilson in second.
In the intermediate area of the field (10-19 yards), Mills has a passing grade of 77.8 with 141 passing yards, 2 touchdowns, 2 big time throws, and an adjusted completion percentage of 60%.
Additionally, Mills’ accurate pass percentage of 50% in the intermediate area ranks 7th in the league over the past two weeks. It’s worth noting that Mills’ accuracy has made a significant leap in the past few weeks as he’s got the third highest accurate pass percentage in the league at 68.2% which is right behind Joe Burrow and Aaron Rodgers. He had previously been sustaining a 58.7% accuracy clip so he’s seen his accuracy increase nearly 10% against Seattle and Jacksonville. Mills has also thrown uncatchable balls at one of the lowest rates in the league which speaks to improved ball placement and better decision making.
As is the case with most rookie quarterbacks, the secret to Mills’ success is being kept clean. Mills has been the beneficiary of better pass blocking in his last two starts as the Texans have a 78.6 pass blocking grade, which is 8th in the league over that span. So far this season, the Texans rank 22nd in the league with a 60.2 pass blocking grade and the 9th most sacks allowed. He’s completed 73.3% of his passes and despite throwing a pick, he’s more than made up for it with 445 passing yards and 22 first downs when given time. As a whole, the Texans offense still had a negative Expected Points Added in Weeks 14 and 15 at -.167, though that was slightly better than what they were averaging on the season which was -.228 and dead last in the league.
One area where the Texans offense has seen a massive increase is in explosive plays (plays of 15+ yards). They’ve had 11 explosive plays in Mills’ last two starts, which is second to the Bengals amongst all teams. Moreover, their receiving corps has been efficient when running routes with a 4.57 yards per route run, which ranks 8th. They have a 69.1 receiving grade against press coverage, 10th highest, and a 5.64 yards per route run against press, a strong indicator of the Texans success against man. Eight of their 11 explosive plays have come against man coverage, along with 254 passing yards and 10 first downs.
Mills has been at his best on third down, where he’s thrown two touchdowns and has a 69.2 adjusted completion percentage. On their opening drive against Jacksonville, Mills converted four third downs and capped it off with a touchdown to Brandin Cooks. He’s faced pressure 11 times on third down and has turned that into three conversions, just one sack, and had an impressive conversion versus the Jaguars to recently extended wideout Phillip Dorsett. He exhibits the ability to quickly make a decision as Marc Trestman said of him pre-draft, “When he’s made a decision…it’s 1-on-1 he feels pressure here and he immediately makes a decision. I put that on poise, process, and quick decision making.”
A throw that highlighted one of Mill’s best traits, his anticipation, was on a drive extending play in Jacksonville where he hit Cooks on a 3rd-and-4. Mills quickly dropped back against the blitz, began his throwing motion as Cooks was one step across the line of scrimmage, and hit him in stride for a 6-yard completion. Trestman’s pre-draft evaluation of Mills discussed how his anticipation was more NFL ready than most college QBs, saying “The ball is already up and out..he has the anticipation and the trajectory to get the ball in.”