Charlotte, NC (CBS HOUSTON) – The Houston Texans 2017 first round pick Deshaun Watson looked strong at moments in his NFL debut as the Texans lost 27-17 to the Carolina Panthers on Wednesday.
“It’s a start,” said Watson after the game. “I’ve just got to enjoy the process, and stay on track of trying to get better. Find ways to get better to improve in this league. And that’s what I’ve got to do, stay hungry and continue to work.”
“He’s a smart player,” said Texans head coach Bill O’Brien of Watson. “He’s an instinctive player. First game out there, I thought he did some good things. It’s a big jump . . . from college to the NFL. I thought he handled it pretty well . . . He could have played a little bit better on certain plays. But overall, I thought he handled himself pretty well for the first time out.”
Watson got the lion’s share of the playing time for the Texans as Tom Savage left after just three series. Watson played into the 4th quarter before giving way to Brandon Weeden. Watson finished 15-25 for 179 yards, no touchdowns, and no interceptions. He also ran for 24 yards including a 15-yard touchdown run in the 3rd quarter.
“I was just extending the play,” said Watson of his touchdown scramble. “That’s what Coach O’Brien always tells me. If nothing’s there, do what I do. Don’t change and try to force anything. Extend the play. And I saw a hole and tried to get in the end zone, and I did.”
Watson wasn’t perfect, missing a few open wide receivers, but looked poised in the pocket and comfortable on the field for the Texans.
“Whenever we get back to West Virginia and watch the film tomorrow we’ll be able to correct the mistakes and the passes that I missed,” said Watson. “But it was a good day overall. I did what I needed to do, and I felt comfortable doing it.”
Savage, the named starter for the Texans went 9/11 for 69 yards and no scores, but he did go 8-8 on his final drive which led to an Alfred Blue touchdown run in the first quarter.
“Tom’s a resilient guy,” said Bill O’Brien. “He’s in his fourth year. He’s dealt with injuries. He’s dealt with a lot of different things . . . He’s always going to go out there and put his best foot forward and try to correct mistakes. And try to get everybody lined up correctly, and get us into the right play, and complete the ball. He’s a fun guy to coach. He’s a real good guy and I was happy to see he had a touchdown drive.”
“We want to start fast,” said Savage. “We want to score points those first two drives. But I think us getting our feet under us, and going out there and putting a drive together and scoring, that was good to see. I wanted to protect the ball. And I wanted to show consistency, and keep moving the chains and convert on some of those third downs. I think we did a good job and some of the guys made some plays. But ultimately – I know it’s preseason – but we want to win the game, and that’s the goal.”
Three-time defensive player of the year J.J. Watt was back on the field for the Texans after missing the final 13 weeks and the playoffs with a back injury last year. Watt only played a few plays but he seemed to be moving comfortably, chasing down a play 20-yards down field and pressuring David Anderson, the Panthers quarterback, on one play.
After the game, Watt was asked about the Texans quarterbacks. He did a good job of dodging the question.
“I don’t watch quarterbacks man,” responded Watt. “I’m a defensive guy, I just chase ’em.”
Rookie running back D’Onta Foreman showed well in his first NFL action, rushing for 76-yards on 9 carries for the Texans including a 41-yard run in the 4th quarter.
The Panthers were able to get on the scoreboard first with a 23-yard pass from David Anderson to Kelvin Benjamin who jumped over Jonathan Joseph for the score. The Texans were able to answer back on Savage’s final drive with the Alfred Blue 16-yard rush.
In the second quarter, the Panthers added on with a Joe Webb 50-yard pass to Damiere Byrd and a Graham Gano 45-yard field goal.
Watson was able to lead the Texans to a field goal before halftime to make the score 17-10.
The Panthers would add a touchdown pass to Byrd to kick off the 3rd quarter and take a 24-10 lead. The 11th overall pick in the draft stayed in for the Texans after the half and was able to take his first possession of the second half for a 75-yard drive he capped off with his touchdown run.
Watson stayed in the game for a few more drives, but couldn’t muster any more scores for the Texans.
Brandon Weeden came in for Watson with just over five minutes left in the 4th quarter. He went 4-9 for 38 yards on the night.
The Texans biggest problem on the night? Penalties. Houston was penalized 12 times for 91 yards on the game.
“Last year I think we were one of the least penalized teams in the league,” said O’Brien. “Those are the things we have to stop doing. We’re never going to do anything if we keep getting penalized like that or turning it over.”