CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It was only a preseason game, but Deshaun Watson gave a glimpse of what the future might look like for the Houston Texans on Wednesday night against the Carolina Panthers.
The two-time Heisman Finalist from Clemson looked comfortable in his first NFL action. Watson completed 15-of-25 passes for 179 yards while playing all of the second and third quarters and all but five minutes of the fourth in Carolina’s 27-17 victory over the Texans at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.
“He is a smart and distinctive player,” Texans’ head coach Bill O’Brien said. “First game out there, I thought he did some big things.”
One thing Watson did big was run for a 15-yard touchdown with 56 seconds left in the third quarter for his first NFL touchdown. On the third-and-eight play, Watson escaped pressure, like he did much of the night, and found a lot of green grass when he ran to his right. When he got into the open space, he cut it up the middle and spilt the safeties while hopping into the end zone.
“It reminded me a lot of those Clemson days,” former Clemson teammate now fellow Houston Texan D.J. Reader said afterward. “He looked good.”
Reader said it was nice to see Watson making those kinds of plays against someone else instead of in practice.
“It’s not fun playing against him all the time,” the defensive tackle said. “It’s not fun.”
All Watson was doing on the touchdown play was extending the play.
“That is what Coach always tells me,” he said “If nothing is there, do what I do. Don’t change and try to force anything, extend the play. I saw a hole, tried to get to the end zone, and I did.”
Though Watson had a nice touchdown run, he only ran the football three times for 24 yards. Most of the time when he felt pressure, he bounced the play outside and kept plays alive by moving around and keeping his eyes down field.
“My main focus is to make sure that I am doing the right things as a quarterback,” Watson said. “Leading the team, good operation, good MIKE points, whatever the coach asks me to do and what we game plan for.”
Watson used his scrambling ability to extend plays and make throws of 34, 23, 22 and 19 yards after things broke down.
“It’s a big jump from college to the NFL,” O’Brien said. “I thought he handled it pretty well. There are probably a couple of things that we could’ve done differently. He could have played a little better on certain plays, but overall I thought he handled himself pretty well for the first time out.”
Watson was sacked three times for minus-15 yards, which caused his overall passer rating to go down to 81.9. He also got a little too anxious on a couple of throws in the first half where he had wide open receivers running down field and he put a little too much juice on the throws.
However, though Watson might have hung onto the ball too long on a couple of plays and missed on a couple of throws, he made good decisions and did not even come close to throwing an interception in his 25 attempts.
“That’s one of my goals, to take care of the football,” he said. “Especially at this level, we can’t turn the ball over. That’s one of the biggest things that we focus on is to protect the ball, whoever is protecting the ball, runners and passers.”
Though he still has some learning to do and he still is probably behind veteran Tom Savage on the depth chart for the starting job, Watson gave the announced crowd of 71,200 on Wednesday night a little glimpse of what the future might hold for him and the Texans.
“It was good to get my feet wet,” Watson said.
“It was a good day overall. I did what I needed to do and I felt comfortable doing it,” he continued.
–Above Photo Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
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