By John P. Lopez
The Texans have tread lightly around the topic of DeShaun Watson being a Day One starter from the moment the commissioner uttered his name.
They have delivered a united, careful message downplaying the possibility — in part because presumed starter Tom Savage has been a good soldier and in part to protect the young stud from Clemson.
It will be a competition, they have said. And truthfully, Savage probably has a leg up on the competition. Besides, Watson doesn’t need that kind of pressure. Why rush? Let the kid come along at his own pace and give Savage the starter treatment because, well, he’s earned it.
But a giant flaw in the message has become apparent in Texans training camp: No one delivered it to Watson. And head coach Bill O’Brien hasn’t exactly been slipping on the kid gloves, either.
In just about every way but on the depth chart, Watson has looked the part and played the part of a quarterback being groomed to take the reins sooner rather than later.
That’s not to say Savage hasn’t looked every bit the part as well. Savage has had a very good start to camp and clearly is respected and considered a leader by teammates and coaches.
But it is telling how much O’Brien has immersed Watson into situations and rotations otherwise reserved for the starting quarterback. He’s taken almost as many reps as Savage. He’s been tested against the first-team defense more than presumed back-up quarterbacks ever experience during camp — especially this early in camp. He’s also regularly earned high praise from O’Brien, which is especially enlightening considering Watson is a rookie.
“He’s a very mature kid.,” O’Brien said. “He is wise beyond his years for a young guy. He is handling it well.”
While neither O’Brien nor anyone in the organization is even close to anointing Watson the starter, and Savage may well win the competition, their actions clearly indicate an inkling that Watson could earn the job sooner rather than later.
If the Texans were so convinced in Savage, after all, wouldn’t he be earning most if not all the snaps with the first-team offense and against the first-team defense? This is the first time in his NFL career Savage entered a season as the presumed starter. And having thrown exactly zero NFL touchdowns, the meticulous planner in O’Brien surely would want Savage to take every rep possible in preparation for the season.
That is not the case. Not even close. It’s only the first week of training camp and already, if nothing else Watson has given O’Brien and the Texans pause.
The Day One starter? The only thing we know for certain is it won’t be Brandon Weeden.