(SportsRadio 610) Have the Texans put quarterback Davis Mills in the best situation to succeed?
That’s a fair question to ask.
However, what exactly does the best position to succeed mean? It can be a bit subjective.
Does Mills have perennial Pro Bowlers, a legitimate, proven, dangerous deep threat to drop bombs to down the field? Does he have a Pro Bowl running back to carry some of the load? Does he have a proven offensive coordinator that can make some of the best defenses look like Swiss cheese?
He has a speedy and proven veteran receiver in Brandin Cooks, coming off of his sixth career 1,000-yard season, but a lot of question marks in the receiver room beyond that.
He’s got a big running back room led by veterans Rex Burkhead and Marlon Mack, along with a rookie fourth-round pick Dameon Pierce out of Florida who has looked good. But it’s early. Very early.
He’s got Pep Hamilton, who hasn’t coordinated an offense since 2015 with the Indianapolis Colts.
He’s also got an offensive line group that has yet to play a meaningful snap together.
However, on that offensive line, he’s got two tackles in both Laremy Tunsil and Tytus Howard, which by season’s end could very well become one of the best tackle duos in the league.
Howard is back to playing right tackle in camp, as last season he started the first 10 games at left guard. After an injury to Tunsil and the return of Lane Taylor, Howard moved to the blindside for the first time since playing at Alabama State.
Howard thrived at left tackle in four games last season, producing high pass blocking grades (86,83,82,87) in each of his four starts at the position according to ProFootball Focus.
Meanwhile, Tunsil, entering his seventh season in the league and fourth with the Texans, is a two-time Pro-Bowl left tackle. His presence at mini-camp back in June seemed to instill added excitement that one of their most veteran, decorated and respected players showed up healthy to help make the football team better.
Tunsil played in only five games for the Texans last season after having to undergo thumb surgery in mid-October. Expected to be sidelined for just a handful of weeks, Tunsil ended up missing the remainder of the season and his status for this year was at the time in question, not necessarily do to his injury, rather if he’d be traded away.
He’s in Texans camp now and new Texans head coach Lovie Smith is glad to have to him to say the least.
“You add him to our team, we’re a better football team, it’s as simple as that,” Smith said back in June.
The Texans' coach offered Tunsil more praise Monday after their first padded practice.
“There’s a reason why he’s paid more than anybody else on the team," Smith said. "He’s a special player and a special person."
Tunsil, not one to speak in depth much to the media, did say that meant a great deal to him, coming from a coach like Smith.
“That sounds good to me. I’m going to get another bag right,” Tunsil asked jokingly.
“I mean, it’s great, just getting praise like that from a head coach like Lovie Smith, who led a team to the Super Bowl with the Chicago Bears. So it feels great,” Tunsil said.
The success of the team this year in developing players and finding the winning players they’re going to need to take them to the next level in their rebuilding process, starts with identifying who their quarterback in going to be.
It may or may not be Mills by seasons end, but they’ve got to find a way to put him in the best possible situation within what they currently have assembled and evaluate from there.
Though a guy that can go a long way in protecting the Texans project at quarterback, Laremy Tunsil, is doing his part as a leader and Mills’ blindside protector.
Texans running back Rex Burkhead, who has been on teams with the likes of Andrew Whitworth and Nate Solder in years past with both the Bengals and Patriots, said Tunsil has set the tone and the rest of the offensive line and offense can feed off of that.
“Love it. Big guy, can move, just an absolute freak athlete," Burkhead said. "He’s tough, comes to work every single day, and it’s fun to run behind those guys. It makes your job easier. Anytime you get a run play going behind him [Tunsil], it works out well. Of course, his pass protection. He’s one of the best in the game and has been doing it for a few years now."
Burkhead continued his praise of the leadership by Tunsil and the rest of the o-line, including first-round pick Kenyon Green.
“When you have a guy like that leading the way, whether that’s some younger guy’s in the room, of course we’ve got a first round pick in the room, and just new guys on the team, that’s huge," Burkead said. "To show their toughness every single day and to run behind them, it’s quite a joy."
While the roster around Davis Mills may not be chalk full of high-end talent, he does have the respect of the veterans on the team that want to see him succeed, and now it’s the players' job to help put Mills in the best possible position to be successful.