“The biggest thing that I've heard, they need some free pizzas. That's it. Free pizzas. Look, I can help them out, but I've got to be there. Whitney Mercilus on teammates’ reaction to his Papa John's Houston commercial
The Houston Texans have a short week to prepare for Thursday Night Football against the 2-0 Carolina Panthers and a number of injuries to watch this week.
Rookie QB Davis Mills will get his first career NFL start after Tyrod Taylor was placed on Injured Reserve with a hamstring injury. Meanwhile, the Texans defense currently ranks second in the NFL and first in the AFC with five takeaways (Dallas has 6) and currently has a plus 3 turnover differential which also ranks second in the NFL.
Here are some of the top stories and quotes from the week.
In addition to Taylor, rookie WR Nico Collins was placed on IR Tuesday. The Texans signed TE Antony Auclair to the active roster from the practice squad and LB Hardy Nickerson to the practice squad.
Danny Amendola and Justin Reid also suffered injuries on Sunday at Cleveland. Offensive Coordinator Tim Kelly said previous seasons with injuries taught him to adjust quickly with the personnel changes.
"That's our job to figure it out," Kelly said. "Cleveland didn't care. We can't waste any time on the sideline worried about hypotheticals. We've just got to, 'Hey, okay, what do we got to do now? What are we in, what are we out of, who can do what?' And be able to adjust on the fly. That's one of the many lessons that we've learned here over the years. Going back to Tennessee, I think it was in 2017 there, we lost all our wideouts, we had to put a running back out there to play wide receiver. With the roster limitations in this league, you've got to be able to adjust fast and figure out how to get through the game if you get into a worst-case situation."
Jeff Driskel will be the backup quarterback to Mills. Head Coach David Culley said the offense won't change much with Mills under center.
"We'll actually have the same playbook. Obviously, there's some things that he is a little different than Tyrod, but we actually have the same kind of plays," Culley said. "But we'll use the things that fit him more so than what we did with Tyrod. Some of the things we did with Tyrod we may not do with him in the run game, but as far as the pass game, it will basically be the same thing."
OL Tytus Howard is looking forward to playing in primetime on Thursday night.
"It's always good to showcase our talents in front of everybody, because like we all see what's going on in the media," Howard said. "A lot of people don't think we're a good football team, but everyone inside this building knows that we're a great football team. We'll get a chance to showcase that Thursday night."
Howard says he thinks people will be surprised at Davis Mills' mobility and how he moves.
"Nobody has seen him do it like in a game," Howard said. "But I've seen him at practice roll out of the pocket, deliver a strike down the field to a guy, and I was like, 'Wow, that's an impressive throw for a rookie.' So, he earned my respect."
WR Brandin Cooks has seen growth from the rookie since the time he arrived.
"I'll have to say just his command, as well," Cooks said. "The times that he does get in there and practice, he has a command of the offense and the huddle. A lot more vocal, a lot more confident in that aspect. And just not being quiet, but steps up and talks when he needs to. So when you see that from a young guy and see that build every single day from spring camp until now, that's been huge."
Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey leads the NFL in yards from scrimmage with 324 through two games. He also leads all running backs with 14 catches.
"You can't make a mistake. You have to have somebody in every gap, gang tackle, pursue to the football, all of those things gives you the best chance to slow him down a little bit," Defensive Coordinator Lovie Smith said. "Not many people are going to stop him completely."
WR Anthony Miller is expected to make his Texans debut with Amendola out. Kelly is expecting the wide receiver to have a good game and described him as fast, explosive and that he plays with an edge.
DB Terrance Mitchell is in the concussion protocol this week. If he can't play, Tremon Smith provides depth in the secondary. Lovie Smith liked what he saw from Smith against the Browns.
"I've seen him get better and better throughout," Lovie Smith said. "So, it will be that mentality as we go through. Again, we'll just keep bumping guys up, and we expect them to play well."
Tremon Smith, along with Desmond King II, is also a potential return man in the kicking game. If Andre Roberts is playing additional snaps on offense or King on defense, Special Teams Coordinator Frank Ross has options.
"That's the blessing of having a deep returner room. There's always a chance we can have different bodies back there throughout any game on the season, really," Ross said. "We have Tremon Smith, who has a history of both returns, so we have multiple guys that can do it. If anybody at any point in time, if Desmond King is playing every single snap of defense, we would try and lighten the load, potentially, in our kicking game phases."
This week, K Joey Slye will face his former team, the Carolina Panthers, where he played for two seasons (2019-20).
If you can't be here in person, you can catch the game at 7:20 p.m. CT on NBC, NFL Network and SportsRadio 610. Click here for tickets.