It was just the first preseason game, but Wednesday night won’t lead anyone to believe the Houston Texans have all their offensive issues figured out, especially at quarterback. Though, the Texans’ first drive after halftime led by rookie Deshaun Watson will offer some hope.
Tom Savage started at quarterback against the Carolina Panthers, and very few of the positive reports from camp carried over. On his first series, he was pressured on first down, then held the ball too long and was sacked on third down. On the second series he was indecisive on third down and sailed a check-down pass over Lamar Miller. For most of the rest of the quarter Savage’s only objective seemed to be to get the ball out of his hands as soon as possible. He completed many of his very short pass attempts, but the degree of difficulty wasn’t very high.
Nothing Savage did in his quarter of work will make Houston fans forget that Watson, a college star and the 12th pick of the draft, is waiting behind him on the bench.
Savage rallied a bit on Houston’s last drive. He had a nice first-down throw to Jaelen Strong after avoiding the pass rush, and another first-down throw to DeAndre Hopkins. That drive finished with a touchdown, so it wasn’t all bad for the Texans offense. He finished 9-of-11 for 69 yards. It wasn’t the worst performance but Savage didn’t really show much either.
Watson had some good moments off the bench. He came in to start the second quarter and he showed off his mobility right away. He rolled right and completed a 6-yard pass on his first NFL play. He had other moments where he escaped the pocket. He also severely overthrew wide-open rookie tight end Evan Baylis on a seam route on his first drive. Later, Watson severely overthrew receiver Wendall Williams downfield, though the Panthers were called for defensive holding on the play. Blame rookie nerves.
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Watson was 8-of-14 for 118 yards in the first half, though 56 of those were empty yards that came on a drive in the last minute with the Panthers playing off coverage. Watson stayed in to start the second half and looked comfortable on Houston’s first drive after halftime. He completed six of eight passes on the drive for 55 yards and finished it with a 15-yard touchdown run on third down.
Watson made a few nice throws, organized the Texans’ no-huddle offense well, though he also made a few rookie mistakes. All said, as far as first NFL games go it was a positive for Watson. What he did in the third quarter was something to build on.
The Texans have insisted Savage will start, and reporters at camp have said he has looked good in practice. On Wednesday he played a very safe game and completed a lot of short, safe passes. Watson was solid, with some room for improvement. The Texans’ biggest priority over the next three weeks will be to figure out which quarterback is the best choice to lead the offense.
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