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Evaluating Davis Mills’ First Four NFL Starts

NFL’s Next Gen Stats give us insights into the rookie QB’s game.

Houston Texans v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

When all else fails, use the power of Jeff Bezos’ wealth to determine what you already know. Davis Mills did not have a good day on Sunday against the Colts. But how bad was it? And was it that much different than his other starts?

A lot has been said about the up-and-down performances Mills displayed during his first four games in the NFL. Some were ready to crown him, especially after what he did against the Patriots. Lord Long Neck II, I suppose. Many didn’t see his poor performance against the Colts as more than a return to the mean. Rookie performances don’t follow a standard deviation; they’re often more of a roller coaster. What Mills and the Texans did against the Colts was all of the going down part and none of the fun of riding a roller coaster.

With that in mind, I ask you, the reader, to diagnose the below Next Gen passing charts of Davis Mills over his four NFL starts based purely on your understanding of the game and your expectations from Mills. After you review and try to match the game to the chart, I will reveal the week and score of each chart/game.





Take your guess. The answers are:

  • PASS CHART A: Week 4, at Buffalo, 40-0 (L)
  • PASS CHART B: Week 5, vs. New England, 25-22 (L)
  • PASS CHART C: Week 6, at Indianapolis, 31-3 (L)
  • PASS CHART D: Week 3, vs. Carolina, 24-9 (L)

How’d you do? #StatThat (that annoying hashtag they’ve been cramming down our throats on nationally televised games).

Yes, we’re all aware these are Texans losses, but there is a lot to distill from this. First, Mills likes to throw to his right. He’s able to throw more accurately and further there. It’s pretty limiting from an offensive perspective, albeit interesting to see illustrated.

Second, the deep ball is not a thing for Mills. In his 80 completions, only four went past 20 yards. To put it in context, the equally bad or worse New York Jets, with a rookie QB Zach Wilson, have had a total of 79 completions in Wilson’s first four games. Wilson has 11 passes over 20 yards; he also has EIGHT interceptions,

To compare further, here’s Wilson’s game against the same New England Patriots that Mills cut up.

Am I saying Mills will be as good as Wilson? No. Do I think they both have high ceilings? No.

But do I think that both are young quarterbacks who will, in one role or another, stay in the NFL for a while? Eh, sure, but mostly as clipboard holders. Either way, I’ll take Mills’ performance over Wilson’s with just three weeks separated from each other.

One last item worth noting: The sheer quantity of passes behind the line of scrimmage. Especially against the Colts, Mills was throwing cheap passes that allowed the Colts to pin their ears back. Throwing so short also shortens the field immensely for a defense; they don’t have to worry about being beaten over the top. Mills was 10 for 18 with two picks when the ball was thrown 10+ yards down the field. That simply isn’t enough volume or accuracy to be effective at this level.

Whether you matched the game to the correct pass chart or not, you know that Mills has a long way to go in his pursuit of sustaining a starting role in the NFL. We’re all counting down the days until Tyrod Taylor’s hamstring heals.