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Red Zone Play: All Deshaun, All The Time

One Texans fan has seen enough to believe it’s time for the rookie from Clemson to start under center.

NFL: Houston Texans at Carolina Panthers Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Unfortunately, our local station didn’t begin last week’s Texans broadcast until just after the offensive starters left the field. So all I could do was review the stats and then buckle up for the debut of Deshaun Watson.

Over the first two drives, Tom Savage managed to pass for two whole yards – which was negated by the five-yard loss he suffered when he was sacked in the opening drive. Adding it up, Savage managed to net negative three yards in his first two drives as the official starting quarterback for the Houston Texans.

Not exactly the grand debut of the All-Bill-O’Brien offense we’ve all been told to expect.

While discussing the two quarterbacks with my esteemed Battle Red colleagues, BFD nailed the proverbial problem directly on the head by saying Savage isn’t processing the game fast enough.

To extrapolate on BFD’s observation: Instead of making a hundred decisions in thousandths of a second, Savage’s mental processor seems to be under-clocked. With the speed of the pro game, these can lead to busted plays, turnovers, and, you guessed it, repetitive injury problems for the skill position players. Sound familiar?

Then Deshaun Watson took the field.

While in some ways, Watson very much looked like a rookie. In other ways, he looked like the most experienced quarterback Houston has had under center since Matt Schaub.

The hype on Watson has been all about his x-factors: leadership, decision making, unstoppable will to win, and his ability to process the game at a high rate of speed.

Essentially what BFD was spotlighting likened Savage to a Pentium 2 running Windows 98, while Watson was an Intel Core i7. As we all know, the speed of the NFL far exceeds the capabilities of a P2.

The pre/post-draft knock on Watson, echoed here on more than one occasion, was his pitch speed. However, his release was tied with Aaron Rodgers – you know, the guy with the second fastest release in the NFL. Watching Watson in a live game situation, the delivery times weren’t off at all. Savage obviously has a stronger arm, but all the cannon power in the world doesn’t help if that cannon isn’t fired before you’re overrun by the enemy.

At times, the offensive line worked beautifully to create a solid shell to protect Watson’s pocket and give him space to find an open receiver. However, the real enlightenment came from the plays when the line operated more like they did in 2016, collapsing quickly with little slowing of opposing players.

When those moments struck, Watson reacted.

It almost looked like Randall Cunningham, Steve Young, or a rookie Michael Vick when the pocket collapsed. Watson wasted no time whatsoever, escaping the collapse and extending the plays with his feet. Unlike Vick, however, Watson seemed more insistent on winning the game with his arm and less apt to just take off liked a spooked deer.

Sure, it’s only one “meaningless” game and not even an entire game at that. But I’ve seen enough to anoint Watson as the Texans’ starter. Especially if Rick Smith is going to continue to ignore the necessity of a five or more starting-caliber offensive linemen.

Of course, Watson-as-starting-field-general isn’t all it’s going to take to paint the playoffs Battle Red.

Bill O’Brien needs to get to work fixing the inadequate running schemes from last season. D’Onta Foreman can run up the A-gap with Alfred Blue all day long, but putting Lamar Miller in situations where he can finally play to his strengths is a must. Using Braxton Miller as more than just a slot receiver would go a long way toward removing the predictability of this offense as well.

It’s obvious that this team still has a long way to go, and some think part of that going won’t come till Bill O’Brien leaves the building. But bringing Watson on board was certainly a big step in the right direction.

According to reports out of training camp, Watson has spent considerable time since last week’s game practicing with the starters. If Watson could do what he did last week going into battle with a host of second, third, and fourth-stringers, imagine what he can do with the starters.

A Houston offense that has Watson, Hopkins, Miller, Miller, Foreman and Fiedorowicz all put in situations where they can win is an offense we can all get excited about. It’d be an offense that should complement the lights-out defense Houston already has. With that, all the special teams needs to do is rise to the level of simply mediocre and this team should finally take the next step and hopefully host Houston’s first AFC Championship game.

Believe this team is headed in the right direction? Or do you feel like Bill O’Brien and Rick Smith still have a lot of work ahead of them?