ROOKIE QB WATSON IMPRESSES TEXANS
O’Brien says work ethic shines through
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.VA Friday was the first fullpadded practice of the year for the Houston Texans, and coach Bill O’Brien had something he wanted to see.
He scripted a full-team, goalline period and placed the ball at the 3-yard line.
“I know we have padded drills where we don’t bring guys to the ground,” O’Brien shouted as he stood at the line of scrimmage, sandwiched between the offense and the defense. “This is not that. This is L-I-V-E.”
This was the first action that resembled NFL game speed for rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson.
“That was fast,” Watson said during a news conference, when asked what his biggest surprise has been. “Things were moving.”
The big question facing the Texans as they conduct training camp at The Greenbrier resort revolves around speed, but of a different variety. Just how quickly will Watson blossom into the franchise quarterback the team envisions he will become?
“I just play my role,” the rookie said. “Be the best that I can be, and when the opportunity comes up, take advantage of it.”
Watson’s surprise at how swift live action was served as a reminder he has a long way to go. And as he has done since he was drafted, Watson’s comments about his status on the team have been perfectly scripted to eliminate drama.
Still, Houston is a team coming off consecutive AFC South titles, and, equipped with one of the top defenses in the NFL, the Texans should again compete for a playoff berth. So though O’Brien has repeatedly said incumbent fourth-year pro Tom Savage will be the starter, it’s uncertain how long his leash will be with a talented young backup on the bench.
When asked directly if he felt he was competing for the starting job, Watson repeated the same answer about playing his role, almost verbatim.
“It’s very early, but he’s a good, smart guy,” O’Brien said of Watson on Friday. “He works hard, good communicator, loves football, in here all the time. He gets his food, goes up to the meeting room to watch tape on his own. So does Tom. But for a young player, he’s a mature guy.”
Savage replaced former Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler in a Week 15 game last season against the Jacksonville Jaguars after Osweiler threw his second first-half interception. Savage led the Texans to a 21-20 comefrom-behind victory. He then became the starter for the last two weeks of the regular season but suffered a concussion in the regular-season finale that kept him out of Houston’s two playoff games.
“I’m not going to really sit back and say it’s real special, because I have to go out there and I have to earn it,” Savage said Wednesday of his current spot as a starter. “I know how fast this can be taken from me, and you have to earn it every day, all the way until the last game.”
And though the players have different skill sets, the one thing O’Brien vowed not to do during the regular season was to shuffle them in and out in a two-quarterback system.
“No, I’m not going to do that,” he told USA TODAY Sports on Saturday. “I’ve done that before. I’m not going to alternate quarterbacks in and out of there.
“I don’t think that’s good for the team. I think Tom is having a really good camp. He’s got good command of our offense. He’s throwing the ball really well, good connection with our receivers right now.
“And Deshaun, for a rookie, has really come a long way. He has gotten better every day, and I think that room is just a really good competitive room right now.”