Watson wasn’t perfect during his first NFL action, but it’s clear he has progressed nicely since being selected with the 12th pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. The Texans should really consider allowing him to start the second preseason game.
Watson played the entirety of the second and third quarters, and one series in the fourth. He finished the game having completed 15 of 25 passes for 179 yards. He added 24 yards and a touchdown on three carries and, most importantly, he didn’t turn the ball over.
All of Watson’s highlights are below:
As I said, he was far from perfect, but what I saw I really liked.
In the pocket, Watson had a great sense of timing. He felt when the rush was coming and — in most cases — was able to either move away from it, or get rid of the ball. The Texans moved the pocket a lot for their young quarterback, which was smart. Watson was good on the move and typically made the right decisions with the ball when he was on the perimeter.
On short and intermediate throws I was impressed with Watson’s ball placement and his reads. He found open receivers and once he settled in he put the ball in good spots. Again, he wasn’t perfect, but he was vastly improved from what I saw at Clemson last season.
Watson also did a nice job reading the defense. He had command of the line of scrimmage and also displayed poise throughout his time on the field. He also showed good burst on a 15-yard scramble for a touchdown:
Watson doesn’t have a big arm, and his deep balls were pretty bad against Carolina. His passes fluttered, several were under-thrown and on two he used all arm instead of getting his legs and body behind the throws. That said, he’s trying to supplant Tom Savage, not Tom Brady.
Last year the Texans had the NFL’s best defense, a unit that allowed just 301.3 yards per game. They also finished eighth in the NFL in rushing offense, with 116.2 yards per game. But Houston finished 29th in total offense (314.7 yards per game) and passing offense (198.5 yards per game), almost exclusively because of atrocious quarterback play. Despite that, the Texans went 9-7 and won the AFC South.
Other than the departure of A.J. Bouye in free agency, that same team returns this year largely unchanged. All that is needed is a competent signal-caller who won’t make mistakes and give games away. At the rate he’s improving, Watson could do far more than that.
The rookie out of Clemson clearly provides far more upside than Savage. That was apparent Wednesday night. While he may regress in Game 2, Texans head coach Bill O'Brien should experiment and give Watson a chance with his first unit.