Davis Mills’ starting QB remarks signal competitive culture with DeMeco Ryans
“I’m competing for that starting job.”
On Tuesday afternoon, third-year quarterback Davis Mills had one of the biggest headliners of the day when he announced that he believed he could win the quarterback competition despite the presence of C.J. Stroud.
“Since I’ve been drafted in the NFL I’ve been in a competition,” Mills said. “I don’t think anything is going to change. It’s been great getting to know C.J. so far. He’s an extremely hard worker and it will be good to see how we go out there everyday and make each other better.”
Davis Mills does not believe he's in a mentorship role for 2nd overall pick C.J. Stroud:
"I'm still competing for that starting job. I mean, since I was drafted into the NFL I've been in a competition. I don't think anything is going to change."#WeAreTexans
— John Crumpler (@JohnHCrumpler) May 23, 2023
The comments, of course, drew some ire both nationally and from the Houston Texans fanbase. How could a quarterback that just led the team to only three wins and was benched at multiple points believe that he could be the starter over the team’s first round pick?
Despite the relative shock value on the surface, it was commentary from Mills that should have been both expected and appreciated for anyone interested in watching the Battle Red in 2023. The competitive spirit from Mills not only signals the right attitude from a young player but also speaks to a healthy dynamic under first time head coach DeMeco Ryans.
To begin, what else could anyone expect Mills to say? This is a player who, just one year ago, was considered one of the more intriguing young quarterback prospects in the NFL. Many national pundits around the country thought his rookie campaign had been as impressive as Mac Jones and he’d outperformed the likes of his highly drafted peers such as Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields.
This is a talented young player who isn’t unaware of his surroundings. For every draft comment that Stroud would be entering a better situation than the one present in 2022, Mills knows even better the difficult circumstances he was asked to navigate last season. Poor interior offensive line play, weak offensive skill position players, and an abysmal offensive coaching staff marred any opportunity for Mills to build off his strong rookie campaign.
Mills is too old to be asked to play the role of an older veteran like Case Keenum. His best place and role on the roster is to learn alongside and push Stroud as much as he’s physically and mentally capable. This is a player who was as equally heralded as Stroud leaving the high school ranks, never played alongside the level of support found at a program like Ohio State and has now gathered two years of NFL experience.
Why can’t he win the starting job? He already has the opportunity to show off with first team reps early this summer.
Davis Mills getting the practice reps with 2nd round pick Juice Scruggs ✍️ pic.twitter.com/Y9ijCbjiG4
— John Crumpler (@JohnHCrumpler) May 23, 2023
Houston is a team that just spent over $40 million in free agency acquiring multiple new starters for the 2023 season. They’re manned by a front office and general manager Nick Caserio that traded away their future 2024 first round pick and signaled that the organization is done sacrificing the present for the future.
This is not a team that will sacrifice their upcoming year for the sake of development for Stroud. Mills is learning a new system alongside Stroud and, despite any outcome, this is a great situation for the team. Two young players are learning the offense together and should push each other to improve during practice.
If the two are remotely close or Stroud has an edge, the team can make an obvious choice to start their second overall pick. If Stroud struggles to adjust from the spread concepts present at Ohio State, they won’t be forced to play him early and Mills won’t feel caught off guard if he’s asked to take a bigger role than some may have projected.
More than anything, these comments are healthy not only for Mills but for the culture that Coach Ryans preached he wanted to install in Houston during his arrival.
Players on the roster, both young and old, are well aware that very little is promised to them. When returning players like Mills believe they have an opportunity to win their position battle, you create a culture where everyone on the roster is working harder to win their spot. This is the type of environment that allowed San Francisco players like Charles Omenihu and Talanoa Hufanga to become far more than their projections in the preseason.
For a young team, little is more valuable than every young player believing they have an opportunity to contribute and to win. Even if those odds are seemingly improbable.
Mills is unlikely to open as the starter for the Texans. However, his desire to do so speaks well towards the caliber of competitor and towards the overall culture that the Texans are looking to establish early during the 2023 campaign.
Fans will have to watch and see how this relationship benefits their future franchise quarterback. In the meantime, it could also mean some far more intriguing preseason games as Ryans builds towards his coaching debut.
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