The NFL’s “statistical highlights” for this week included a few that really shine:
Houston rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson threw three touchdown passes in the Texans’ 33-17 win over Cleveland. Watson has thrown at least three touchdown passes in three consecutive games and is the first rookie in NFL history to accomplish the feat.
Watson has 12 passing touchdowns in the past three games, the most in league annals by a rookie in any three-game span.
This season, Watson has 15 passing touchdowns, the most ever by a rookie in his team’s first six games of a season.
When Clemson Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney said passing on Watson would be like passing on Michael Jordan, he wasn’t kidding. While some people thought Swinney was either crazy or simply trying to puff up his own product, the doubters are few and far between these days.
Now, heading into the bye week, the Houston Texans are fairly well set at the quarterback position. With the return and rise of Will Fuller, they also seem locked and loaded in the pass-catching phase of the game. While rumors are swirling Houston general manager Rick Smith may trade Duane Brown to Seattle this week, everything else offensively is really looking up for the Texans.
Unfortunately, the hits just keep coming for the defensive side of the ball as rookie standout Dylan Cole is now reportedly out for approximately a month.
Every season in the NFL is a war of attrition, with about half the league capable of winning it all until the injury bug sets in and cripples a roster. Houston seems to be closing in on proof-of-concept.
But how far is gone?
When does the roster fall below the line of contender into also-ran? When are they officially backed out of the Red Zone?
With the loss of J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus and Brian Cushing, Houston’s top tier front seven fell out of the #1 defense conversation. Can the rest of Houston’s starters and quality backups remain healthy for the final ten games of the season?
Can Jadeveon Clowney avoid the bug? Will Benardrick McKinney remain the anchor of the defense? Can Johnathan Joseph keep Father Time at bay long enough to put out another Pro Bowl caliber year?
One key to lessening the wear and tear on the defense is to keep them off the field as much as possible. That’s where we circle back to the man at the top of this piece. Deshaun Watson holds the keys to Houston’s 2017 fortunes.
When you look back through NFL history, some of the best players currently in the Hall of Fame were men who elevated the play of those around them.
And eventually, Andre Johnson.
These are all men who made their teams far better than the sum of team + one good player.
You know what other athlete did that? Michael Jordan.
Crazy as it sounds, while we’re only five games into his career, it’s obvious Dabo Swinney wasn’t just blowing smoke when he boasted about his former starting field general. Deshaun Watson is the real deal, and no amount of defensive injuries is going to stop him from elevating the game of those around him.
It seems surreal to finally watch an amazingly dynamic offense take the field at NRG Stadium. Win or lose, the Texans are finally fun to watch again. They just have to translate that dynamo into win-power against teams no one thinks they can beat.
How far do you think Watson can carry the Texans? Pitch your prediction in the comments section.