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

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

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Texans quarterback Davis Mills scrambles against the Broncos.

Texans quarterback Davis Mills scrambles against the Broncos.

Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

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

But Davis Mills is no Aaron Rodgers. The Texans quarterback has 13 career starts; Rodgers has 208 for the Packers. Mills has two career wins; Rodgers seemingly beats the Bears twice every season.

Williams 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 they’ll try to show the second-year Mills something he has never seen before Sunday at Soldier Field.

“We tried with Aaron Rodgers — don’t think we didn’t try,” Williams 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 Rodgers’ credibility, defensive end Robert Quinn said, but the Bears have to beware nonetheless. 

“We’ve still got to 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.”

Mills is one of the best quarterbacks of the 2021 draft class. Statistically, he’s better, right now, than Bears quarterback Justin Fields. The big question is whether that will still be true at the end of the season.

Fields, selected 11th overall in 2021, has loud tools the Bears still need to help polish. Mills, drafted 67th overall in the third round, appears more fully formed, although without the ceiling of the quarterbacks drafted ahead of him. Long-term, Mills probably isn’t the quarterback the Texans will build 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. He was the eighth quarterback drafted in 2021, 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, with a 96.6 passer rating in December and a 102.3 passer rating over two games in January.

This season, he has a much more underwhelming 80.8 rating in two games — a tie against the Colts and a seven-point loss to the Broncos on the road — as the Texans lean on Dameon Pierce (26 carries). Mills described the 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.”

Mills has done that well enough in his 13 career starts. His 87.6 career passer rating trails only one other quarterback drafted in 2021 — the Patriots’ Jones. His average of 205.4 passing yards per game trails only Jones and the Jaguars’ Lawrence. Only Jones has thrown more than Mills’ 18 touchdowns. The only QBs from the 2021 draft class with fewer interceptions than Mills’ 10 have played only about a quarter of the snaps Mills has, or less.

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

But most important, he’s not Rodgers.

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