McClain: For Texans QB change, better late than never

Better late than never, right?

On Friday, coach Lovie Smith finally disclosed the worst-kept secret in Houston, that Kyle Allen has replaced Davis Mills as the Texans’ starting quarterback against the Dolphins.

Allen, who’s making his first start since 2020 when he played for Washington, has been practicing with the starters this week. He’s taking over an offense that’s last in the NFL with an average of 285.9 yards a game, including 26th passing (192.2) and 29th rushing (93.7).

During Smith’s regular sessions with the media on Monday and Wednesday, he hinted a change could be coming but refused to admit it, insisting he didn’t want to divulge information the Dolphins could use as an advantage.

That wasn’t the case Friday when Smith came clean. He wouldn’t admit it, but it was an easy decision considering how ineffective Mills has been. He wants to give Allen a chance to prove himself, but Mills isn’t out of the picture.

“You’re always looking for an option that gives you the best chance to win,” Smith said. “That’s where we are right now. Everything the quarterback has to do -- protecting the football, decisions in the pocket, when to run -- all those things come in to play. That’s why we’re in this position now.

“I feel like when a guy is the starter, he should have an opportunity to show who he really is – a body of work. I feel like we have a body of work right now that leads us into the Miami game this way.”

It’s not like the Dolphins are going to be afraid of the Texans’ offense in former Texans’ offensive assistant Mike McDaniel’s first season as their coach.

The Texans have a league-worst 1-8-1 record, and, according to PreGame.com, Miami is favored by 14 points – up from 11 since word got out Allen would be starting.

Smith said he hasn’t given up on Mills. When asked how Mills took his demotion, he said, “How would any competitor take it? He’s been playing, and, of course, he’s not thrilled about it. Who would be?

“Everything is short term with where we are. We take it day-by-day with everybody. This is what we think we need to do for this game. That’s how it is for every position. We could need Davis sooner than later.”

The Dolphins, one of the league’s most surprising teams, have plenty of incentive to pummel the Texans. They need a victory to elevate their record to 8-3 and stay tied with the Bills for first place in the AFC East. They’re looking to increase their winning streak to five games. The Texans are trying to avoid a six-game losing streak.

Because of Allen’s elevation, there’s some intrigue in this game for Texans fans. The main question that needs to be answered is will we notice a difference in Pep Hamilton’s offense now that he’s calling plays for Allen rather than Mills?

Because Hamilton is the coordinator who calls plays, he takes a lot of well-deserved blame for the offense being so putrid this season, especially Mills, who hasn’t been nearly as effective as the last five games of 2021 when he threw nine touchdown passes and two interceptions.

Mills goes to the bench with 11 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and a 78.1 rating. His rating is 30th among quarterbacks. On third down, his 54.1 rating also is 30th. He has two touchdowns and five interceptions.

In the fourth quarter in which the Texans have been outscored 75-37, Mills’ 59.5 rating is 38th among qualifying passers. The only quarterback with a worse rating is Pittsburgh rookie Kenny Pickett (49.7). Mills has two touchdown passes and six interceptions in the fourth quarter.

Hamilton’s passing game can’t be much worse. Mills and the offense were especially inept over the last four games when the Texans averaged 13.2 points. For the season, the Texans average a second-worst 15.9 points. Only the Broncos (14.7) score fewer points a game.

The Texans offense should be healthy against the Dolphins, who have one of the league’s most explosive passing games with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa throwing to wide receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle.

The Raiders (38-20) and Chargers (34-24) have scored the most points against the Texans. They’ve scored fewer than 20 points six times, including in the last four games. The Dolphins average 35 points in their last three games.

It’s doubtful Hamilton will change his offensive strategy in Allen’s first start. The idea is for Allen to connect on passes that Mills was missing and try to avoid throwing interceptions, especially in the red zone.

The key, of course, is to get to the red zone. The key to that will be for rookie running back Dameon Pierce to bounce back from Sunday’s performance in the 23-10 loss to the Commanders. He carried 10 times for 8 yards. The offensive linemen were dominated by Washington’s front four.

“Protection has to be better, no matter who our quarterback is,” Smith said. “Hopefully, that’ll be the case and give us a better chance to win.”

Miami runs a 3-4 with outside linebacker Bradley Chubb, acquired in a trade deadline deal with Denver, as its most dangerous pass rusher.

This is the second time the Texans have played against Chubb this season. The Texans lost 16-9 at Denver in the second game of the season. Chubb didn’t have a tackle or sack but knocked down Mills two times.

On Sunday, Chubb will be chasing Allen rather than Mills.

“I wish we didn’t have to make it,” Smith said about the change. “As far as disappointing (for Mills), we’re all big boys in this business. If we’ve made a change at any position, I think there’s a body of work that says we should.”

And Mills’ body of work this season says Smith should have made the change sooner.

John McClain can be heard Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday on Sports Radio 610 and Monday and Thursday on Texans Radio. He writes three times a week and does three weekly Houtopia Podcasts for SportsRadio610.com. He also can be read four times a week on GallerySports.com.

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