Wednesday night in Charlotte, NC was the Dawn of the Deshaun Watson Era for the Texans. While that certainly (and rightfully) is dominating the conversation following preseason game number one, there are obviously other topics at hand.
Let’s see what the BRB staff observed as positives and negatives from the 27-17 loss to the Carolina Panthers.
Positives: It's easy to say Deshaun Watson, but I don't care: Deshaun Watson it is. At this stage of his career, I still think Ryan Fitzpatrick is a great comp, and that's not a bad thing at all. Watson appears to process well, shows good ability to buy time in the pocket, and is accurate in the short- to mid-term game.
In his very short time on the field, J.J. Watt looked far better than he ever did in 2016.
Negatives: Tom Savage. No, he wasn't terrible on his final drive, but Carolina had already pulled its starting defense, which is why. Savage cannot process the game fast enough, and he will struggle to get the ball out. He has the physical tools, but 90% of being a successful quarterback is mental; the other half is physical.
The offensive line is shaping up to be a sieve with plenty of penalties thrown in. Whomever thought bringing Breno Giacomini into the fold should be shot into the sun. Also fired.
Finally, my biggest disappointment from the game was Robert Nelson. He's better than this, and we really need him to step up this year.
Positives: Watson, Foreman, Blue.
Negatives: The utter lack of discipline that led to numerous penalties. I don't see much excuse for that, even in preseason.
Positives: Loved seeing Deshaun Watson gets out there and do his thing. He whiffed on a few passes, which could easily be written off to lack of chemistry with the cast-of-thousands wide receiver corps he played with, but overall he looked like the Watson I’ve been watching for years in Death Valley. D’Onta Foreman is going to be something special, too, based on his performance.
Negatives: The special teams, aside from the kickers, is still a total train wreck. Between that unit and the eleventy-billion holding calls for the offensive line (some of which were incredibly tacky-tacky), it’s no wonder the final score didn’t work out in Houston’s favor. Larry Izzo better figure out how to overcome the yearly tradition of “How Poorly Can We Perform On Special Teams?” if he hopes to be anything more than yet another former special teams coach who couldn’t get it right in H-Town.
Positives: Deshaun Watson (obvs), and D'Onta Foreman was electric in his time on the field.
Negatives: Good gravy, the penalties. I hope this is just an aberration and not something we should expect during the season. Robert Nelson was burning radioactive garbage last night. And while I didn't actually get to see Breno Giacomini play last night, I will assume he was wretched and got at least one stupid penalty for his trouble, because that's what he does.
Positives: Watson looked like "National Champion Clemson Tigers' Deshaun Watson" in a Texans uniform on an NFL field. I saw him change the protection at the line of scrimmage a few times (which made me jump out of my seat with excitement), and he extended plays to move the chains and even score points (something somewhat alien to this offensive system the last few years). He looks ready to be the starter and ready to deliver the "X-factor" that Houston so desperately needs on offense. Foreman and (shockingly) Alfred Blue ran really well. The end results of this game don't matter.
Negatives: Special teams still looks like a dumpster fire going on what feels like a decade now. The offensive line is going to get someone killed....Get Duane Brown's contract resolved, because....dayum! With respect to Savage, who I think is a great person and new father, I have to imagine at least one coach telling him, "Babies you should hold as long as possible; footballs...not so much." Mark my words that the Texans failing to franchise tag A.J. Bouye will be a bigger mistake than failing to re-sign Glover Quin a few years ago. Spoiler: That was a huge mistake that Houston still hasn't recovered from at safety. Why does Rick Smith, a former defensive back, seem to not value retaining good defensive backs?
Positives: Watson at the very least has enough mobility to not get murdered by our terrible pass protection. He missed some throws downfield, sure, but if Tom Savage were in his place, Savage would have been sacked at least three more times than he already was. I really do think that the difference in mobility between those two will play a huge factor in determining how early Watson finally sees the field in the regular season. Also, Zach Cunningham is a tackle magnet—he won't be kept on the bench for very long.
Negative: I've already mentioned it, but pass protection was horrible...putrid, even. If this is what the offensive line looks like without Duane Brown, then Rick Smith better break out the checkbook, and fast. Penalties and special teams blunders continue to plague this team as well. I really have no idea what the hell the problem is at this point, but bad special teams play has been a systemic issue in this organization across multiple coaching staffs for the better part of a decade. I've run out of hope for this unit...again.