Davis Mills might not have the best situation around him, but he’s quietly produced during a solid rookie season. He has made rookie mistakes at times, but in a quarterback class that has left a lot to be desired, he’s at least throwing touchdowns along with his interceptions. He can be a little gun shy and hesitant on longer-developing plays, but he’s accurate, generates good power, and is great in the quick game.
With an offensive skill group that has Brandin Cooks and then a bunch of guys that you haven’t heard of, it’s hard to get a great evaluation of Mills in year one. However, when he’s on rhythm, he looks legit.
One of the common quick game concepts that the Texans use is Stick. The Texans run stick with a vertical from #2 and then two routes at five yards from #1 and #3. The play is designed for the #3 receiver to win leverage for an easy completion. Mills needs to identify who the conflict defender is and who will attach to the #3 receiver. Pre-snap, that’s going to be #54 Bobby Wagner who is inside of the #3 receiver. The quick hook outside is taken away by the corner walked up in press. That makes it a really easy read for Davis Mills. As long as the safety stays capped over the vertical, he’s reading the leverage of his stick route inside. The Seahawks are dropping the defensive tackle into coverage, but there’s no way he can get out underneath the #3. Davis uses a shuffle drop which is common in the quick game so that the quarterback can quickly get to a base to throw from. As soon as he hits the top of his shuffle, the ball is out and on the upfield shoulder of the receiver to allow yards after the catch.
Davis Mills is decisive and accurate underneath. Those are critical parts of playing behind a lackluster offensive line and a roster that doesn’t have much talent. You’ve got to make the throws that are there.
There are already some good signs from Mills including anticipation throws both in the quick and intermediate game. This play is the same Stick concept, just run out of a balanced formation. The outside receivers are running quick outs with the inside receivers running stick routes that will sit in a zone if nobody attaches to them. With quick pressure, Mills is able to hit the top of his drop and identify the outside linebacker staying underneath the #2 receiver to the bottom. He hits his back foot and is almost finishing his throwing motion by the time the receiver even begins to cut. He hits them right in the face and exploits the cushion from the corner.
Davis Mills is particularly good off of play-action on what’s called the Yankee concept. Yankee is a two-man route concept designed to get an explosive play. One receiver is running a deep post and the other is running a dig from the opposite side of the field. Mills loves throwing that dig to green grass – and rightfully so, he’s pretty good at it. Off of the play-action, the safety stays on top of the deep post. That means that Mills has to shift his vision to identify any hole or flat defenders on the opposite side. There is indeed a linebacker there to take away the middle window, so Davis resets his feet and is beginning his throwing motion before the receiver has cleared that player. Mills has seen that there’s no flat defender sinking under the late window across the field and he layers the ball over the linebackers to get an explosive play.
Where Mills does have some issues is on second reaction plays and getting off platform when moving. He’s still able to generate good arm strength, but the accuracy takes a hit. We’re seeing more and more guys throw without their feet set and it’s a big part of playing quarterback in the NFL. We see less guys that are able to recreate their mechanics consistently and have the same level of accuracy when they’re off platform. That’s certainly true for Davis Mills. His tendency is to over rotate and lean as he finishes his throw – largely because of his momentum when he’s scraping away from pressure. Some of that is also due to his larger movements in the pocket which get him on the move and off his base.
While Mills does process things well in the quick game, he can also lock onto things and be hesitant on his intermediate throws. A lot of younger players struggle with those things, but it pops up a few times a game with Davis Mills. Here, he’s reading the single receiver at the bottom of the screen the entire way despite the receiver never having leverage and the receiver getting collisioned at the top of the route. At the top of the screen both the dig and the post have uncapped space to throw to, but Mills never gets there.
Mills is definitely less confident on the intermediate concepts and reads. Here he again has a dig route coming open. He’s looking right at it, yet he still turns it down and then bails from a clean pocket. Leaving the pocket gets him into trouble and walks him into pressure.
Davis Mills definitely has some arm talent. He can squeeze balls in, be decisive, and has good fundamentals in clean pockets. When he has to get off his mark and read the intermediate passing game, he has more struggles. All things considered, he has performed well for a mid-round rookie on a team with little talent. He’s certainly capable of being a stop-gap guy with the potential of evolving into a mid-tier quarterback. The Texans haven’t dealt with a lot of positives this year, but they’ve at least shown a couple flashes and have a cheap and competent guy with potential behind center.