The work began long ago for Davis Mills.
The Texans Quarterback said it was "great" to be back on the practice field with his teammates this week at Organized Team Activities (OTAs). But Mills didn't take a lot of time off once the 2021 regular season finished. And he wasn't alone.
"I feel like we've had a really good number in the building really putting in a lot of good quality work," Mills said in an interview with Texans Radio. "There's been a lot of chemistry built this offseason, and we're obviously showing up and ready to roll into these OTAs, so it's been exciting."
Echoing that excitement is Head Coach Lovie Smith, who stressed the importance of experience and reps in the development of the second-year signal-caller. A fan of Mills' growth throughout 2021, Smith has also been impressed by his leadership.
"Every day we've opened up the building, he's been in here," Smith said. "He's our quarterback. When you're the leader, you've got to be visible. It's been documented on what I think of Davis. I think he's going to be an excellent quarterback in the NFL for a lot of years, but it's about this year."
A few times this offseason, Smith has remarked about the progress Mills made since getting drafted. In six starts between Weeks 3 and 8, the then-rookie tossed six touchdowns, was picked off seven times, and was sacked 19 times. The Texans lost all six contests, and mustered a combined 61 points in that stretch.
But when Mills returned, he started the season's final five games. Houston won twice, and scored 116 points in that quintet of games. Mills threw nine touchdowns and just a pair of interceptions, and was sacked nine times.
Smith is enthused by what's to come.
"Having a year, he and Pep Hamilton getting on the same page with our offense, and him being in a role from the start, that's different also," Smith said. "But that's what you do. You have a chance for him to establish himself as one of our primary leaders each day."
Mills' favorite target was Wide Receiver Brandin Cooks, who posted another 1,000-yard receiving season last year. Cooks and Mills, along with many other Texans pass-catchers, have placed an emphasis on building chemistry.
"Times like this, being here at OTAs, being able to get some of those live throws, and then summertime comes and be able to get the guys together and just keep that thing going before going into training camp," Cooks said. "As we all know, everything is just about reps."
Mills took advantage of the last four-plus months and has immersed himself in learning Hamilton's new offense, his physical training and much more. That same four-month span in 2021 was spent preparing for the NFL Scouting Combine and Pro Days, and then preparing for the NFL Draft. Being in the system, and the building as well, has been a welcome change for Mills.
"It's exciting to be back and to have this experience under my belt," Mills said. "This year, you're just able to go through things a lot faster and not have to think too much and just go out on the field and react and have fun."
Mills and the Texans will resume OTAs next week at the Houston Methodist Training Center.