In an entertaining game for Houston fans, the Texans were able to pull off a big 26-7 win in Green Bay. While it is just preseason, there were a lot of bright spots that the team can build on. And of course, there were also several key areas for improvement to be made.
Without further ado, here are my initial reactions and takeaways from Saturday’s game.
Davis Mills Has Potential
Quarterback Davis Mills, the Texans’ third-round draft pick out of Stanford, made his debut against the Packers. His stat line wasn’t terrible for a rookie in this situation as he threw for 112 yards, completed 11 of 22 passes, and had an interception.
Initial reports out of training camp were that Mills looked unimpressive and unfit to be an NFL QB. However, he then started to turn it around and got more comfortable with each rep he took. Sure enough, Mills showed a little bit of both these descriptions in his first game.
On the positive side, Mills was able to showcase his strong arm and ability to stand in the pocket. His highlight of the night came on a 24-yard strike to another rookie in WR Nico Collins. The connection would set up a Texans touchdown just a few plays later. The young QB also made several big plays on third and distance, including a well-placed ball to Keke Coutee which went for 17 yards.
What was disappointing from Mills was his inconsistency when it came to accuracy. While he made many big plays downfield with his arm, he also missed a handful of easy throws. One of these was a simple screen pass to Coutee that landed in the dirt.
The interception Mills threw was also a flat-out terrible decision to throw into double coverage near the red zone. Most of these mistakes were likely due to nerves, but Mills will have to clean up his game to truly be an effective QB at the NFL level.
Overall, it was a solid debut for the rookie QB, and he’ll be a serviceable backup to Tyrod Taylor this season. But, whether he can be a starter and future face of the franchise remains to be seen. Again, the biggest thing Mills needs is more experience.
The Defense Is Already Improved
Lovie Smith has to be happy with the effort his guys displayed. The Texans’ defense held the Packers to just seven points, forced three turnovers, and allowed only 49 rushing yards. Now, it wasn’t against Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams, and company. But it was still a solid showing from a unit with almost no continuity.
The biggest improvement made has to be the run defense, and every Texans fan will agree with me on that one. Last year, Houston ranked dead last against the run, giving up 160 yards per game. Saturday’s game was clearly a different story, however, with the team holding the Packers to just over 2.3 yards per run.
Aside from the scheme, solid linebacker play from guys like Kamu-Gruiger Hill, and good work on the interior from players such as Ross Blacklock helped to shut down the Packer rushing attack.
The Texans had also ranked 32nd in takeaways last season but were able to notch three against Green Bay. Lovie Smith did a good job of dialing up the pressure and had his guys playing aggressively, especially on third down. This led to two strip-sack fumbles and a late-game interception.
One concern that remains for this defensive unit is the secondary. The downside to Lovie Smith’s aggressive scheme is that it often leaves guys alone in man coverage. That got exposed on several occasions in this game. One reassuring thing is that corner Bradley Roby and safety Justin Reid, the best members of the secondary, did not play.
The open-field tackling was also incredibly solid, as Keion Crossen and Lonnie Johnson had big days. But, letting receivers catch the ball and hoping to make tackles isn’t going to cut it. I have a feeling the Texans’ defense will once again be giving up a lot of big plays through the air this season.
Every Running Back Deserves A Spot
The Texans have one of the deepest backfields in the league. And, after this game, it’s going to be hard to cut someone. Houston’s ground game started slowly with Philip Lindsay getting the ball five times, but only advancing it for a total of 14 yards. However, Lindsay, along with David Johnson and Mark Ingram, isn’t a bad committee. They have each secured their roles on the team and cohesion will just take time.
Following Lindsay’s exit, we got to see the load of depth that lies behind the three starters. Scottie Philips exploded for a huge day as he had 13 carries for 66 yards and a touchdown. Philips not only showed great speed and agility but also displayed patience and vision.
Buddy Howell also had a solid day, rushing eight times for 38 yards. Even Darrius Jackson showcased his skill, sealing the game with a 25-yard touchdown run (shoutout to Jeff Driskel with a monster block on the play).
Houston has a lot of skill and athletism in the running back room, and the battle for a spot is heating up. Competition often brings out the best in players, and it’s certainly leading to standout performances from these backs. Overall, the Texans’ rushing attack does seem to be improving from its second-worst finish last season. It’ll be something to watch in the coming weeks.
That’s the majority of what happened in Green Bay. As always, there’s both good and bad that the Texans can take into this next week of practice.
Speaking of next week, the team is traveling to Dallas for a Texas showdown against the Cowboys. Stay tuned for plenty of updates throughout the week and go Texans!