Against Davis Mills, Bears ‘still gotta show up as if we are playing Aaron Rodgers’

Alan Williams insists that the Bears play a nameless, faceless opponent each week.

Davis Mills is no Aaron Rodgers, though. The Texans quarterback has 13 career starts. Rodgers has 208. Mills has two career wins; Rodgers seemingly beats the Bears twice each season.

Williams, the Bears’ defensive coordinator, said the Bears try not to think about the disparities between quarterbacks week-to-week –“We want the standard to stay high … no matter who we play,” he said –but he acknowledged the fact the Bears will try to show the second-year Mills something he’s never seen before Sunday at Soldier Field.

“We tried with Aaron Rodgers –don’t think we didn’t try,” he said. “He just, he has seen it, he has recognized it. And yes, maybe this quarterback may not –but we still approach it the same way.”

Mills “might not have the credibility of Aaron Rodgers,” defensive end Robert Quinn said, but the Bears have to beware nonetheless.

“We still gotta show up as if we are playing Aaron Rodgers,” he said. “Because any given Sunday, somebody can look like a Hall of Famer.

“Regardless of who the quarterback is, we still have to prepare as if he’s the best.”

While he’s no Rodgers, Mills is one of the best quarterbacks of the 2021 draft class. Statistically, he’s better, right now, than Bears quarterback Justin Fields. The more relevant question, though, is whether the Bears will be able to say the same at the end of the season.

Fields has loud tools that the Bears still need to help polish. Mills appears more fully-formed, though without the ceiling of the quarterbacks drafted ahead of him.

Long-term, Mills is probably not the quarterback the Texans will build their franchise around. The verdict is still out on Fields.

Mills played only 14 games at Stanford during a four-year career marred by knee injuries and the coronavirus. When the Texans drafted him with the first pick of Round 3, he became the eighth quarterback taken, behind first-rounders Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, Fields and Mac Jones, and second-rounders Kyle Trask and Kellen Mond.

Deshaun Watson deciding to sit out 2021, combined with Tyrod Taylor’s struggles to start the season, gave Mills an opportunity to start as a rookie. He got better as the season went on, totaling a 96.6 passer rating in December and a 102.3 over two games in January.

He has a much more underwhelming 80.8 passer rating in two games this season — a tie against the Colts and a seven-point loss at the Broncos. The Texans are leaning on Dameon Pierce, who has 26 carries this season. Mills described the Texans’ offense to reporters this week as a “ground and pound football team who’s going to make the defense have to play the run– but then when they do, let’s take some shots and move the football down the field.”

He’s done it well in his 13 career starts. Mills’ 87.6 passer rating trails only one other quarterback drafted in 2021, the Patriots’ Mac Jones. His 205.4 passing yards per game is behind only Jones and the Jaguars’ Trevor Lawrence.

Only Jones has thrown more than Mills’ 18 touchdowns. The only quarterback with fewer than Mills’ 10 interceptions have played about one-quarter as many snaps as he has –or less.

“He doesn’t throw a lot of interceptions if his first read isn’t there …” Bears cornerback Kindle Vildor said. “He’s very careful with the ball. He’s very good at what he does. … He’s a starter there, so they believe in him and things he can do. He’s a good game manager.”

Most importantly, he’s not Rodgers.

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