Football is back baby! It feels like Christmas Eve, and our true American sport’s regular season is only four weeks away. After the Hall of Fame game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Arizona Cardinals, fans finally got a glimpse at the first of the three quarterbacks taken in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft: Deshaun Watson. It seems that most aren’t huge fans of the former National Champion out of Clemson, but as a Texans’ fan, I’m trying to keep my hopes at reasonably optimistic levels. Even to our owner, MJ, Deshaun Watson is one of the least impressive first round quarterback prospects in recent memory; he believes Watson will be decent but will quickly fade out of the league like his Titan’s very own Vince Young. Maybe so, but perhaps not. This is the first of my weekly (hopefully) articles following the journey of Deshaun Watson.
The Starting Spot
Tom Savage was named the starting quarterback for the Houston Texans not too long ago, and many NFL fans yawned and chuckled. We all know that its only a matter of time before first round quarterbacks who were supposedly going to “sit and develop year one” end up starting. Against the Carolina Panthers, Tom Savage reminded us of who he is. Have you ever had a child shrug at you because they simply have no interest in what you are saying? That’s how we feel about Tom Savage. He’s not interesting, not spectacular in any way, and simply just a dude at the end of the day. A shrug.
I can’t knock on Savage too hard for the first of his three offensive drives. RG Jeff Allen gave up pressure to Savage on the first play of the drive, followed by getting blown up on a stretch play which in turn stuffed RB Lamar Miller. Those horrible performances at right guard were followed by an even worse one at left guard when LG Xavier Su’a-Filo gave up a drive-ending sack.
In the second drive, Savage followed a short run and a short screen with a very “just a guy” type of play. Feeling no pressure whatsoever, Savage shuffled backwards to his left and lazily failed to step into his throw. The pillow of a pass pattered to the ground out of the reach of RB Lamar Miller who was wide open in the flat.
The last of his three drives was yet another yawn even though it ended with an Alfred Blue rushing touchdown. A series of rushes, quick throws, screens, and checkdowns were enough to get the offense going, and Blue took it all the way home for six. It was a successful drive, but a very unimpressive one . I don’t know if its just the fact that I was eager to see the rookie play, but Savage just reiterated what we already knew he was. Just bleh.
Watson’s First Professional Drive Perfectly Revealed His Flaws and Talents
Contrary to what we saw with Savage, Deshaun Watson was exciting even in a drive that ended up being a three and out. We saw three of his most identifiable characteristics as a quarterback.
1st Down: The Mobility
On a play action bootleg, Watson effortlessly glided to his right. His athletic ability was immediately clear, and it would only get more apparent as the game went on. On the move, Watson snapped his arm across his body and hit TE Evan Bayless on a short crossing pattern for an easy gain.
2nd Down: The Wild Throw
If you watched any Deshaun Watson film, you know that the guy can just be flat out in accurate. He reminds me of Cam Newton in the sense that balls will just get get away from him sometimes. We can’t really explain why, but they just happen. With TE Evan Baylis wide open in the seem on the very next play, Watson sailed the ball far over his head and to the sideline. The first of many wild throws.
3rd Down: The Magic
On his third professional play, we saw the first of what we can really only describe as: Pocket Magic. Some of the best quarterbacks have it, and so do some of the worst. Take Aaron Rodgers and Johnny Manziel for example.
After the pocket was compromised, Watson seemed to panic, but regained his composure and found his way out of danger. Sprinting to his right with his eyes downfield, he somehow found WR Dres Anderson far down the sideline for a fantastic completion. Unfortunately, Anderson ran back in bounds after going out of bounds prior to making the catch. The play was called back with a loss of down. Even so, we saw a little of that pocket instinct from Deshaun Watson that would continue throughout the game.
Let’s just be frank: the rookie has some mechanical issues. Four of his first six incompletions were bad throws, and some of them I mean BAD. After an injury in baseball, I had the same issue. I could throw the ball hard and soft with great accuracy, but there was that one specific speed or arm angle where the ball could just sail on me. It was a mechanical issue that I eventually fixed, but Watson clearly has similar problems throwing a football. The good news is, when he gets into a groove, fans can easily see those issues melt away.
Even so, Watson’s deeper passes often fluttered, especially on the deep throw at the end of the half when he underthrew his receiver on a deep post. He should be able to fix that as he continues to get comfortable with NFL balls.
Fortunately, I didn’t see any other red flags than just those wild throws; they are a big flaw though. Most Texans fans know of a guy who also struggled with those ugly throws from time to time.
Mr. Brock Lossweiler himself.
I’m going to just go ahead and say it. Deshaun Watson gave me flashes of Aaron Rodgers.
Here me out guys. Don’t click off just yet.
I am speaking strictly in terms of pocket presence, mobility, and just flat out paranormal playmaking ability. I saw someone relate his pocket behavior to Johnny Manziel on Twitter, but it doesn’t quite fit. Manziel is often reckless and even paranoid in and out of the pocket, but Aaron Rodgers movements look deliberate and dazzling constantly keeping pass rushing angles at a disadvantage. Like Rodgers, Watson felt the pocket as if he had eyes in the back of his head. From the basics of stepping up in the pocket to the unexplainable knowhow of when and where to break it, Watson showed those flashed. Even his feet behave like Rodgers’s. I often saw Watson hop around just as AR12 does, but I also saw him stand poised motionless on other plays. His ability to glide and keep his feet moving all while keeping his eyes down field was other-worldly tonight. Watson even pointed downfield as Aaron Rodgers does when he goes into backyard football mode.
Not just his feet in the pocket, but his ability to take off upfield was intriguing as well. In the redzone, Watson once again escaped danger, saw a seem around his right guard, and took it to the house.
Give @deshaunwatson an opening and … he will be gone! 💨
— TalkingSmack🚨 (@TalkingSmack1) August 10, 2017
Once Watson got in a rhythm, we saw a guy that was poised and unafraid of the spotlight. He made safe decisions, while being able to throw into tight windows. His best ability came out as his confidence grew as well. Watson took command of the offense and was making calculated changes from behind the line of scrimmage.
I was surprised to find myself much more encouraged than my counterparts here at SFE have led me to be in days prior. At the end of the day, I saw the talent. I saw the leadership and playmaking abilities that Watson is known for, but his mechanical inconsistencies were just as apparent as I expected. Even with the wild throws, it immediately became clear to me after the first couple of drives:
I'm already convinced. Watson>Savage week 1. #Texans
— Brian Ingamells (@B_Mells) August 10, 2017
If he can keep risks at a minimum while continuing to move the chains with his feet and smart throws, there’s no telling where the Texans’ defense can get them. That sounds great, but I said the same thing about Brock Osweiler last season. After all, its week 1 of the preseason, and the stench of the Assweiler still lingers.