Hype. Quarterback. Those two words are a dangerous combination when talking professional football in Houston.
When you’ve been through what WE’VE been through watching Texans quarterbacks, you’ve learned to expect the worst. Because if you don’t, this happens:
You see glimpses of a little thing called hope. Take Case Keenum’s first half against the Colts on Sunday night in 2013, Ryan Mallett’s first start against the Browns in 2014, or Brock Osweiler’s third start of the 2016 preseason. And that hope . . . it makes you super irrational.
You convince yourself that your hope-rocket will blast off for eternity. But then the rocket runs out of fuel, falling back towards reality, and you start making excuses. “Yeah, Osweiler doesn’t look good . . . but he just needs time, right?”
And ultimately, you realize you’ve been fooled. Again. By another unfortunate quarterback who never had a chance to make your dreams come true. Yet you allowed it to happen all the same.
So pardon me for being that one guy telling Deshaun Watson truthers to pour a cold bucket of ice down their pants. I heard all the tall tale esque stories coming out of Clemson. I read all the quotes AND listened to the hot takes coming out of The Greenbrier (because, you know . . . I haven’t been there). But the skeptic in me refused to buy it without seeing it.
And now pardon me for this: I know that Deshaun Watson only played with backups AGAINST backups in a preseason game. But Bill O’Brien and the Texans are CRAZY if they don’t open their door to the possibility of Watson legitimately competing with Tom Savage to be starting quarterback.
I’m not saying to give him the job out right. We’ve only seen him in a glorified scrimmage. For all we know, he’ll come back to earth next week against the Patriots. I’m just saying that he looks a lot more ready for NFL action than expected.
Watson’s exciting style of play – evading sacks, throwing on the run and making plays with his feet – will make the average human naturally biased towards him over Savage. There are plenty of things that he needs to work on, most specifically his deep ball accuracy (who knows if it will ever improve) his bad habit of sailing passes, and other things that I may have missed during my first watch through. But Watson’s in game performance (15-25, 179 yards, 3 carries, 24 yards, 1 TD) Wednesday merits a reward. So why not finally give him some practice reps with the starters?
Take that hot take and smoke it. Here are the rest of my observations from the Texans preseason opener:
- J.J. Watt looks totally fine. Whether rushing off the edge and blowing by a tackle OR helping Jadeveon Clowney chase down a Panther ~20 yards down field, it was nice to see our favorite one line machine – “I don’t watch quarterbacks, I just chase ’em” (real quote from Wednesday) – back in action. The real question: will his back hold up – at a position that causes a lot of back trauma – for an entire season?
- Tom Savage was EXTREMELY slow and indecisive out of the gate. It’s not that surprising – he was like that last year and it sometimes came off as being extremely relaxed in the pocket – but it was certainly a “rusty” beginning . . . at best. He held onto the football for what seemed like an eternity on the Texans first 2 called passing plays (and was sacked on the second after Xavier Su’A Filo was beaten). And on his second drive, he checked down with two shorts passes – a comeback to Braxton Miller and a sailed incompletion to the flat on third down – inspiring zero confidence from me.
- But on his third drive, he helped the Texans get into the end zone. A lot of that has to do with Alfred Blue, who had a pretty good game on the ground: 5 carries, 33 yards and a 16 yard touchdown. Still, Savage was 8-8 for 65 yards on Houston’s first TD drive.
- Braxton Miller got a lot of looks early from Savage. He didn’t do a lot with them though, finishing with just 3 receptions for 10 yards. Even worse, he left the game with an injury . . . and to my knowledge no one figured out what said injury was. Not a great development considering the Texans will likely be without Will Fuller for half the season.
- Do you know who looked surprisingly spry early in this game? Brian Cushing. He was flying all over the field – both in coverage and pursuit – and even got himself a tackle for a loss.
- Do you know what wasn’t surprising? The special teams. They were bad. There were missed tackles, poor returns, holds on said poor returns, and even a throwback Eddie Pleasant boneheaded penalty for good measure.
- Speaking of penalties, 12 for 91 is far too many. I know that it was the Texans first game of the preseason, but clean it up.
- And clean up the tackling too. It wasn’t just the special teams that was whiffing. I doubt that the Texans first team defense will be victimized often – though Kelvin Benjamin posterizing Johnathan Joseph for a 23 yard touchdown reception was a tough watch – but this did not look like the good tackling team they were last season. Clean it up.
- It was not a good day to be a young Texans defensive back with something to prove. Kurtis Drummond got lost on a deep post play on the second drive of the game. Dee Virgin was called for 2 penalties over a 3 play stretch. And Robert Nelson was torched by a guy named Damiere Byrd. Byrd had 4 catches for 98 yards and 2 touchdowns, with Nelson covering him the majority of the time, including on his 50 yard touchdown reception. And yeah, Corey Moore may have had an interception before halftime, but it was because of a truly horrible throw by Joe Webb RIGHT TO MOORE in the Texans end zone.
- But it was a good day to be a Texans running back. D’Onta Foreman had a nice debut for the Texans, showing surprising speed to the outside, a little power, the ability to bust big plays (he had a 41 yard run, on the way to 9 carries for 76), and his hands (2 catches for 6 yards). Meanwhile, Akeem Hunt had a couple of carries (meh), returns (double meh), and impact plays as a receiver (2nd on the team with 3 catches for 38 yards). I wanted to see a little more Tyler Ervin in the game too, but he was pulled after the Braxton Miller injury.
- Oh yeah, everyone’s favorite position: kicking! Ka’imi Fairbairn had a couple of touchbacks and made a 25 yard field goal when the Texans drive stalled in the red zone. Not a bad day, though missed an attempt in the fourth quarter from 55 yards away.
- One final note: I forgot how much I hate the preseason. It’s just really difficult to maintain focus all game, especially late in the second half. A rookie quarterback makes it a lot more bearable . . . until you remember that the game is meaningless and that there are 3 more of these glorified scrimmages, one of which is played entirely by players who will be released soon after.
On that positive note, we’re done! I’ll be back at it with another similar recap after the Texans – Patriots game next week.
Paul Gallant hosts “Gallant at Night” – Weeknights 7-11 PM CT – on SportsRadio 610. He also hosts SportsZone Unfiltered – Fridays at 10 PM – on The Kube: Channel 57. Get in touch with Paul via email or his facebook page.