The Houston Texans made a huge deal on draft night earlier this offseason to trade up and select quarterback Deshaun Watson out of Clemson. Watson was heralded for his leadership and his inherit nature to just win games. There were a few huge marks against him, though. He can be inconsistent at times and he has had issues placing passes.
Watson came into the game in the second quarter after Tom Savage, who started in the first quarter, was entirely shut down by the Carolina Panthers first team defense. Watson’s first few drives were not his best, and he threw a few bad passes.
On his second pass of the game, he missed a wide open Evan Baylis.
Watson takes the snap out of shotgun, like he did for much of his college career. He takes a few steps back and scans the field to find his open man. He sees Baylis wide open between two defenders, but his pass sails on him and falls harmlessly to the ground.
His overthrows and general ball placement haunted him at Clemson. Even when he scans the field properly and finds an open man, he often throws either behind the receiver or lets a ball sail on him leading to an overthrow.
Even when Watson does have time in the pocket and has a clear throwing lane he can’t put the ball where he wants. This issue partly arises from his poor throwing form. On all three of the above plays Watson throws his entire body into a pass and misses an open man. He does not plant his back foot well and flings his shoulder through the pass. This leads to the pass just getting launched in the general direction of his receiver. Letting these many passes sail on you, especially over the middle, leaves you extremely vulnerable to interceptions.
The Rookie seemed to settle into the game and look more like a starting quarterback over time. He was calm and cool in the pocket throughout the game. Watson never looked nervous or lost on the field and he went through his progressions and made smart plays with both his feet and his arm. There were no passes I considered “interception worthy”, and only one that seemed overtly risky. Even some of his poorly thrown balls were thrown into area where the defense could not capitalize.
This play during the Texans two-minute drill at the end of the first half was an excellent example of his pocket awareness.
Watson takes the snap and drops a few steps back. The Panthers edge rushers make their way around the offensive line and begin to breathe down the neck of Watson. Watson keeps his eyes down field, never showing any sign of panic. He glides up the pocket with ease to avoid the rush and find an open man for a huge gain.
Late in the third quarter he picks up a small gain in an impressive yet unspectacular play.
Watson takes the snap from under center and drops back. He instantly scans the right side of the field for a few men downfield and into the end zone. He does not find anyone in open space and quickly whips around to find D’Onta Foreman underneath for a small gain. Watson’s first option was obviously at the other side of the field. The receiver was covered, so Watson goes through his progressions and does not find anyone. Watson knows exactly where his dump off option is, and quickly gets him the ball before any Panther can pick him up. The ball is not placed well and if Foreman had beaten that first man he probably would have gotten within five yards of the end zone. The play shows the quarterback’s field awareness and passing IQ. He did not force a pass and knew exactly where his dump off option was. He did not hesitate to rid of the ball and was not scared by the pressure heading towards him from the middle.
The rookie showed his football IQ throughout the game and managed to never throw any passes into trouble.
The most exciting part of Watsons game might be his ability to make plays with his feet. He is fast and athletic and can read the field well to find open running lanes. It adds another dimension to his game and the entire Texans offense. He ran a lot of read option plays at Clemson, and while he has not shown off any of his read option talent yet at the next level it is always something he has in his bag of tricks.
He capped off an impressive third quarter with his most exciting play of the game, using his feet to run in a 15 yard touchdown on third and long.
Watson takes the snap and drops back into the pocket, treading towards his left. The Panthers rush two men around the edge, leaving the left side of the field exposed. Carolina’s lone rusher on the right side gets forced around the pocket and Watson steps up. The Panthers are in man coverage and the only two defenders on the right side, a corner and a safety, both follow a man out towards the sideline.
The quarterback watched the field open up in front of him and scampers towards his right, then over the middle for a touchdown.
Paired together with his great pocket presence, his scrambling ability allows him to get outside of the pocket and make plays even when his protection breaks down. He still can work on his accuracy while throwing on the run but he can punish teams if they do not account for him in man coverage.
Watson did not have a perfect game, not even close. He played against the Panthers third and fourth string defense making his job a lot easier. He did show some intangibles that should have Texans fans excited, though. He still has more to work on and he still has not taken the starting role from Savage. I would love to see him start next week against the Patriots to see how he plays against a first team defense, but he will have to impress coaches in camp first before they give him that starting role.
He is not there yet, obviously, but the Texans might have their future franchise quarterback already on their roster.
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