Deshaun Watson took plenty of snaps, more than a few hits

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Three years ago, as then-Browns rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel embarked on the first preseason games of his career, the overriding question related to whether he could keep himself healthy by minimizing the number of times he is hit. For current Texans rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson, it’s fair to at least pay attention to his ability to avoid hits and, in turn, to avoid potential injuries.

In extended action last night against the Panthers, which the NFL has collected into one continuous stream of highlights, Watson was hit six times, mostly behind the line of scrimmage — and never by starting-caliber defenders. Many of the hits came as Watson remained in the pocket. On several occasions, he demonstrated good mobility, either rolling out of the pocket as part of the designed play or scrambling laterally to buy time, at least twice to his left.

For the most part, Watson ran away from defenders, extending the play while avoiding contact. On his signature play of the night (a 15-yard touchdown run), Watson dropped back, saw no receivers open, tucked the ball, darted toward the line, and then took off.

Near the end zone, he had a pair of defenders closing on him. In a game that counts, against first-string defensive backs, Watson quite possibly wouldn’t have made it to the end zone without being hit. So what would he have in that situation? Slid, dove, juked, or kept going?

At that point, Watson would have been fair game for a helmet-to-helmet hit or a shot to the legs, like one that former Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper took on that same field, wrecking his knee and, as a practical matter, ending his career.

While Watson emerged from last night’s game healthy, the Texans want to keep him that way for the next decade, or longer. How he navigates the field when facing the best defenders in the league will be a significant factor in that regard.

10 responses to “Deshaun Watson took plenty of snaps, more than a few hits

  1. If Bill O’Brien is worried about the offensive line and pressure on the QB then Watson will end up being the starter. Not for nothing, and I know it’s only a handful of games, but Savage still hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass.

  2. Looks like he got better as he played the game.
    Took him a minute, but hey, he’s a Rookie and this ain’t college.

  3. It was against the Panthers. Their first string defensive backs aren’t much better than their reserves.

  4. bkostela–I don’t know if the DBs the Panthers had in the game at that point were their regulars, or if their regulars now are the same as in 2015. I do know that the Panthers were in the Super Bowl a heck of a lot more recently than my team, so I’m not going to knock them.

  5. I see a guy staring down his receivers and holding the ball too long. His nickname this season will be “Bootlegger.” Will he ever figure out how to play QB with the entire field? Also, some pretty bad accuracy beyond 10 yards.

    That said, he moved them down the field. We shall see.

  6. He definitely didn’t look anywhere near ready. Accuracy, especially downfield, was poor. Like I said about QB’s with wheels, they’ll tuck and run in critical situations because they are more comfortable relying on that then they are throwing, which is a bad habit, because it doesn’t work after awhile (injuries are one of the main reasons, but defenses being ready for the QB run with speedy personnel packages are another way to shut that down).

    The main positive was his ability to buy time with his legs, but the only problem is he didn’t make any plays in the process.

  7. Gimmick QB like RG3andout. They will have to invent some sort of backyard offense for him to run so he can attempt to be successful.

  8. I didn’t see a lot of separation between Savage and Watson. If not for a couple of dropped balls and the 1st play where he overthrew a wide open #81 in the seam (jitters?), he would have had a better stat line than Savage.

    Savage was holding onto the ball way too long and taking too long to make his 2nd and 3rd reads. O’Brien is complaining about the o-line (which wasn’t great either – except they ran the ball well), but I bet after he watched the tape he saw Savage making a few mistakes that contributed.

    You can never judge a rookie QB on his first preseason game, but Watson certainly gave me the impression that he has potential to be a solid starter after a year on the bench. He has good pocket presence, good escapability, a quick release and his balls were mostly on-target. He protected the football well and I don’t recall any balls that were almost intercepted. His ability to read defenses and anticipate routes will only get better. He’s already better than Osweiler was – so there’s that. I just hope he gets the whole year to develop before the Texans need to put him into action.

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