Deshaun Watson has been nothing short of amazing for a rookie quarterback. Watson replaced Tom Savage in the season opener and has not looked back. The team has won three of the five games he has started and the offense was not the blame for the defeats. Houston has averaged 34 points in Watson’s five starts. He seems to have the confidence of his teammates, something Texans fans have notseen since the early Matt Schaub era.
It is always risky to put a rookie under center on a prospective playoff team. Bill O’Brien’s faith in the rookie has paid off. Watson has completed 61.5 percent of his passes and already has two 300 yard passing games. His ability to move around in the pocket has limited the opposing pass rush and allowed his receivers to get open.
Watson has been better than anyone could have expected this early in his career. Texans fans need to remember his level of play will probably drop at some point. With a few weeks of game tape, good defensive coordinators will adjust and make the rookie’s life more difficult.
At the end of training camp, the defense was the strength of the team and the offense was the question mark. After six games the opposite is now true. The defensive front seven has holes following Brian Cushing’s suspension and the season ending injuries to J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus.
The Texans have 15 sacks through six weeks which looks encouraging on the surface. The defense is tied for 30th in quarterback hits per game. Only Jadeveon Clowney and Bernardrick McKinney have more than two sacks. These sacks all came when Watt and Mercilus were on the field. Both guys will need to provide pressure for this defense to be effective after the bye week.
Houston’s young linebackers have begun to step up to fill the void. McKinney, along with rookies Zach Cunningham and Dylan Cole will need to mature and give this defense a push. The front seven no longer has freakish athleticism so Mike Vrabel and Romeo Crennel will need to be more creative moving forward.
Protecting the Quarterback
The offensive line was a big issue in 2016. It was not expected to improve with three-time Pro Bowler Duane Brown missing due to a contract dispute. Since their horrendous Week 1 performance, where they allowed ten sacks, the pass protection has improved. In the five games since Watson became the starter they have only allowed eleven sacks.
Bill O’Brien is aware of the limitations of his offensive and has adjusted his scheme. O’Brien has moved the pocket around to keep defenses guessing. When three tight ends were injured, six to seven offensive linemen were utilized to keep Watson upright. With most of the offense getting healthy O’Brien has spread the field and given Watson quick throws. This has allowed him to get rid of the ball before the pass rush can get there.
With Duane Brown returning the pass protection should only improve further. Once healthy Chris Clark could be moved to right tackle and move the inconsistent Breno Giacomini to the bench. Brown’s presence should stabilize this offensive line and continue to give Watson a chance.
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