In last week’s power rankings, I described the Los Angeles Chargers vs. Houston Texans game as a, “get-right-or-else game for both parties.” The Texans, after three second-half collapses in a row to start the season, were in desperate need of a win to save their season from sinking before even catching wind. The Chargers, injured to hell and back, represented the last chance for the Texans to pull out of the rising water and get something going before the storm gets worse.
Now, with another stinging loss bolted into calendar, there is no chance for things to get easier. In the upcoming month, the Texans will face: at the Jacksonville Jaguars, at the Las Vegas Raiders, vs. Tennessee Titans, and vs. Philadelphia Eagles. All of these teams have either significantly more talent on both sides of the ball, a defense more than capable of stopping Davis Mills, or enough consistency with their own quarterback that victory against the Texans should come easily. In Philadelphia’s case, they have all three!
While the Texans have beaten the Jaguars plenty of times, quarterback Trevor Lawrence and fantastic play along both of their lines appear to have what it takes to change the narrative surrounding Jacksonville. The Texans are comparatively weak both quarterback and offensive line, something that will make beating the Jaguars feel like more of a pipe dream than an easy win this year. But…even though Trevor Lawrence might be a generational talent that the football world agreed could be a franchise-changing player, Davis Mills did statistically outplay him in their rookie seasons, so the perceived weakness on Houston’s end at QB tells us a lot about how quickly things have changed for each player.
The Raiders certainly aren’t world beaters so far this year, but consistency in passing, unlike with Davis Mills, is what has made Derek Carr’s career thus far. The Halloween matchup against the Titans will be a chance for quarterbacks of similar sloppiness to face each other, but I don’t think it would surprise anyone if Derrick Henry makes any sort of exceptional passing performance from either side moot by halftime.
Davis Mills has now become a clear weak link in games the Texans could have won, so much so that upcoming games now carry hopes of surviving him, not embracing him. From the end of the last season to today, much of the discussion around Davis Mills has gone from, “What plays will he make to help us win?” to, “What plays will he make that will help us lose?” Yeah, it might have been wishing upon a star, but that’s something any fan can plead guilty to doing during the offseason.
It’s not even like the Texans have been truly terrible, either. The defense - including play from rookies Derek Stingley, Jr. and Jalen Pitre - has been capable, and at times, legitimately good. The offensive line, while still a liability, isn’t the pile of traffic cones it used to be last year. The rushing attack, relying heavily on rookie 4th-round pick Dameon Pierce, has been a revelation. Coming into the season, this is what I believed was needed to be crafted for Davis Mills to thrive, or, at least, show the world what could be in store. This is what I thought he needed to really take the next step! But, so far, Davis Mills’ rampant inconsistency at all levels of passing and completely unacceptable accuracy issues have smashed those beliefs.
Here’s where everyone has the Texans ranked after their loss to the Chargers:
32. Houston Texans (0-3-1)
Week 4 ranking: 32
Defensive efficiency: 47.6
League rank: 20th
The biggest issue on defense is ... defending the run.
The Texans are allowing 5.1 yards per carry and have allowed 688 total rushing yards, the second most in the NFL. They’ve allowed 34 first downs on the ground, the third most in the NFL. It’s one of the many reasons they’re winless, and it has made them vulnerable in the play-action game, too. They’ve allowed 415 yards off play-action, which is the fourth most in the NFL. — DJ Bien-Aime
Houston Texans (0-3-1)
Previous rank: No. 32
The Texans are winless through four games for the fourth time since the franchise’s inception in 2002, but the news isn’t all bad. It’s become increasingly clear that running back Dameon Pierce was a draft steal in the fourth round. Pierce set a franchise rookie record with a 75-yard touchdown run that gave Houston some much-needed vitality in an eventual 34-24 loss to the Chargers. Pierce leads all rookie rushers with 313 yards on the ground and was finally granted a full workload by Lovie Smith. In fact, Pierce was the only running back who had a rushing attempt for the Texans in Week 4. Houston has a new horse.
PRO FOOTBALL TALK:
32. Texans (0-3-1; No. 32): They’ve yet to be embarrassed, but at some point they need to win
32. Texans (32): Now the league’s only winless outfit, Houston is getting increasingly more from rookie RB Dameon Pierce, whose rushing totals have increased weekly – including 131 yards (with a 75-yard TD) Sunday.
32. Houston Texans (0-3-1 | last week: 32)
The Texans are officially the only winless team in the NFL. They’re not without exciting flashes, like the 75-yard touchdown run from rookie Dameon Pierce in Week 4, but any success is too sporadic for the team to close out games. And you can’t convince me this isn’t the absolute best-case scenario for Houston. Every week their chances of earning the first pick in the 2023 NFL draft increase is a massive win for a rebuilding Texans team desperate for a quarterback to kick off a legitimate rebuild.
No. 31: Houston Texans (+1)
The Texans are scrappy and are in seemingly every game, but they don’t have the signal-caller to get them over the hump quite yet.
32. Texans (0-3-1)
They showed something in coming back against the Chargers, but they aren’t good enough to win games like that. This is going to be a long season.
32. Houston Texans (0-3-1)
Last Week: 32
Week 4 Result: Lost vs. Los Angeles Chargers 34-24
The Houston Texans are preciously short of things to feel good about a month into the 2022 season.
After four games, the Texans are the only team in the NFL that has yet to celebrate a victory. Houston ranks 28th in total offense, 29th in total defense and 26th in scoring offense. Houston just doesn’t have many impact players on either side of the ball. This is not a problem that will be remedied any time soon, and wins will probably be few and far between this season.
Even head coach Lovie Smith admitted after the loss that his team just isn’t very good.
“We’re not there yet,” Smith said. “We’re not a good football team yet. Good football teams find a way to win at the end and we haven’t been able to get over that hurdle.”
However, there was one bright spot amidst the darkness. Rookie running back Dameon Pierce had a big game against the Chargers, carrying the ball 14 times for 131 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown.
When you’re the NFL’s worst team, you have to take good news wherever you can find it.
32. Houston Texans (0-3-1, Last Week: 31)
The Texans seem to be getting an answer on Davis Mills, and it’s not a great one. He hasn’t gotten better since last year’s promising rookie season. Mills isn’t terrible but he doesn’t look like the type of quarterback who causes you to pass on a top prospect in the draft, and Houston is going to have a high draft pick.
Looks like most have thrown in the towel with Davis Mills and thrown their weight behind the other guy in the backfield. The pre-season provided Mills plenty of hype, and Nick Caserio provided the toolbox to really get things going, but the season itself is where reality sets in. No more would this fog of competence and deep-passing efficiency cloud around Davis Mills, and only his performance on each passing Sunday would keep the dream alive.
In retrospect, Mills is performing about as well as a third-round quarterback on a mediocre team can expect to play, but performing at expectations is not part of the deal we make when we become emotionally invested in our team. Dreams abound when rooting for the underdog, and their miraculous success preordained by fans (myself) are the stories we prepare to root for entering a season. Every week, you hope that the team you like wins, and with that comes accepting some amount of dogma about what can be, what could be, or what should be. For Davis Mills, that hope manifested in an expectation of real, impressive improvement in passing to make winning feel more like a reality, but now it’s clear that was always just hopes and dreams.
Next week, the Texans travel to Florida to face the 2-2 Jaguars. Strong victories against the Indianapolis Colts and Los Angeles Chargers have changed the tune around Jacksonville, and Houston will have their work cut out for them if they want to keep scoring with Brandin Cooks and Dameon Pierce. An improving rushing attack good turn out to be a good omen, but only time will tell.