Davis Mills, Houston Texans limp into Week 7 matchup vs. Cardinals
TEMPE — The Houston Texans have had a rocky 2021 to say the least.
With quarterback Deshaun Watson indefinitely sidelined while authorities investigate numerous sexual assault claims, the Texans looked to Tyrod Taylor to fill in for the starting signal caller this offseason.
Things were looking better than expected after a Week 1 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, with Taylor completing 21 of his 33 passes (63.6%) for 291 yards and two touchdowns.
Since then, the well has run dry.
In what was shaping up to be a win for the Texans, Week 2’s eventual loss to the Cleveland Browns sent the team in downward spiral, headlined by Taylor going down with a hamstring injury that he’s yet to fully recover from.
That’s left 2021 third-round pick Davis Mills to pick up the reins in Taylor’s absence. And a rough stretch it has been for the rookie.
Since Mills took over in the Week 2 loss, the Texans have dropped four straight, including a 40-point shutout by the Buffalo Bills in Week 4 and a 31-3 throttling by the Indianapolis Colts last week.
In his four starts, Mills has completed 80 of his 121 passes for 810 yards and four touchdowns to six interceptions. He’s been sacked 12 times. With Mills at the helm, Houston’s sporting a 120 to 34 point differential over the past four games.
He hasn’t gotten much help from the ground game, either.
Starting running back Mark Ingram has scored just one time this season, while backup Phillip Lindsay is averaging a pedestrian 2.5 yards per carry.
Former Cardinal David Johnson makes up the back end of the running back room, rushing for 79 yards on 20 carries. He’s also served as the pass-catching back of the trio, reeling in 14 balls for 127 yards and a touchdown.
Together, Houston’s offense is the fourth worst in the NFL in total yards per game with 294.3 and has the second fewest points per game in the league with 15.3. It’s the worst offense the Cardinals will face all season.
Throw in the defense’s inability to stop the run, and Sunday’s matchup is a perfect storm for Houston.
Only the Los Angeles Chargers (162.5) have given up more yards per game that the Texans (141.3) this season. As for touchdowns, the defense has given up a league-high 12 rushing scores, two more than the next closest team.
That doesn’t bode well against a Cardinals rushing attack that is tied for fifth in the league in yards per game with 130.7 and tied for fourth in touchdowns with eight.
Run game coordinator Sean Kugler has done an impressive job utilizing both James Conner’s and Chase Edmonds’ strengths. Conner has been a bullying presence around the goal line, while Edmonds has shown off his big-play ability and overall speed.
And you can never count out quarterback Kyler Murray, who despite not getting as many carries as seasons past, still has 116 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.
This is that other should-win game for the Cardinals, the first being the Jacksonville Jaguars matchup. Relying on the rushing attack and letting the defense go to town on a battered Texans offense should be more than enough to come out away with a victory before entering a short week of prep for Thursday Night Football.
Still, this is the NFL, and Arizona isn’t looking past Houston even though they are on polar opposites in the standings.
“We don’t see it as a 1-5 team,” defensive coordinator and acting head coach Vance Joseph said Friday. “It’s an NFL team coming to town with really good NFL players. That’s how we view it. As I’m watching the tape, the score rarely comes to my mind.
“I’m watching concept, I’m watching players, I’m watching guys getting blocked, watching the QB make throws. … We don’t care about the record. It’s gonna be hard to win on Sunday because it’s an NFL team. … It can’t be a trap game. That’s BS. That’s insulting to the league. I think we’re fully engaged right now and having fun winning. That’s good for our team.”