I was wrong about Deshaun Watson, but how can you blame me? Bill O’Brien was wrong about him, too.
As I watched Watson during his outstanding career at Clemson, I didn’t see the kind of quarterback who would be ready to step in and lead an NFL team immediately. I just didn’t think Watson was accurate enough as a passer. Just four games into his NFL career, he has proven me wrong.
But not only me. He proved his own coach wrong as well. O’Brien spent the entire offseason, training camp and the preseason insisting that Watson wasn’t ready, and that Tom Savage would play ahead of him. O’Brien was adamant that Savage gave the Texans the best chance to win.
Once the regular season started, that plan lasted all of 30 minutes: O’Brien benched Savage and went to Watson at halftime of Week One. And now it’s obvious not only that Watson should have been starting from the get-go, but that the special ability to lead a football team he showed in college is carrying over nicely to the NFL.
On Sunday Watson was sensational, passing for 283 yards and four touchdowns, running for 24 yards and a touchdown, and leading Houston to a 57-14 win over Tennessee. Those 57 points were the most in Texans history and the most in any NFL game in five years. Watson became just the second rookie in NFL history with 250 pass yards, four passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown in a game. (The first was Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton in 1961.) And Watson is now the only player in NFL history to put up seven passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns in the first four games of his rookie season.
But as well as Watson is playing, he’d probably be better still if O’Brien had trusted him enough to let him work with the first-string offense throughout the offseason, training camp and the preseason. Who knows: Maybe if the Texans had started Watson from Day One, they’d be 4-0 right now, not 2-2.
As it is, the Texans have to be considered the favorites in the AFC South right now. After leading his team to the national championship in college, Watson may just lead his team to the playoffs as a rookie. He’s more ready than we thought.
Here are my other thoughts on Sunday’s games:
The Jets aren’t tanking, and the Patriots are flawed. A month ago, everyone said the Jets were purposely throwing the season away to get the first pick in the 2018 draft, and everyone said the Patriots were the overwhelming favorites to win the Super Bowl. Everyone was wrong. The Jets and Patriots are both 2-2 and tied for second in the AFC East. The Jets fought hard and pulled out an overtime win over the Jaguars yesterday, while the Patriots’ defense continued to melt down and they lost to the Panthers. This looks like the worst defense Bill Belichick has had in New England, and it’s going to be awfully tough to win another Super Bowl with that group. I still think the Patriots will win the AFC East, but the fact that they’re tied with the Jets, and a game behind the Bills, is stunning after the first month of the season.
Kickers continue to change the game. There may be no bigger change to the NFL over the last few decades than the quality of field goal kickers. For example, in the entire 1976, 1977 and 1978 NFL seasons, the longest field goal was 54 yards. Yesterday, Bills kicker Stephen Hauschka had a 55-yard field goal and a 56-yard field goal. Hauschka and Lions kicker Matt Prater have a combined seven field goals of 55 yards or longer this season. A field goal that was once unthinkable is now ordinary.
The Lions are phasing out Eric Ebron. Ebron has been a disappointment since Detroit took him with the 10th overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft, and the Lions finally appear to have had enough. Yesterday they demoted him in their offense, making him the second tight end option behind Darren Fells. The next question is whether the Lions should bench him entirely: Given that his fifth-year option guarantees him $8.5 million if he’s injured and can’t play in 2018, Detroit may want to simply bench him to keep him from getting hurt. He just isn’t good enough to justify his contract.
The Chargers’ stadium situation is an embarrassment. Yesterday there were something like 25,000 people in the Chargers’ soccer stadium, and most of them were cheering for the Eagles. The Chargers have a fan base of maybe 10,000 people who care enough about the team to be willing to buy a ticket. That’s just pathetic for an NFL franchise. The Chargers completely botched the situation with their move from San Diego to Los Angeles, and it’s hard to see how they can turn it around any time soon. Even when the new stadium opens in Los Angeles, the Rams are going to be the primary tenant and the Chargers are going to be the afterthought. Maybe the NFL should just ship the Chargers to London.
Adrian Peterson is done. After carrying four times for four yards yesterday, Peterson has an absolutely brutal stat line over his last half-season: In Peterson’s last eight games he has 87 carries for 198 yards, an average of 2.28 yards per carry, and no touchdowns. This is going to be his last NFL season. He just doesn’t have anything left.