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Red Zone Play: Regression To The Mean For Deshaun Watson?

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To hear some tell it, the Texans’ starting QB is already headed for the Hall of Fame or a brutal crash landing into mediocrity.

NFL: Houston Texans-OTA Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

Former NFL superstar wide receiver Cris Carter and former Houston sports talk radio personality Nick Wright recently had a debate on their daily TV show, offering up a sort of point/counter-point on just what Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson will do in 2018.

If you haven’t seen the tape on this one, check it out:

This debate got me wondering what the rest of the BRB illuminati had to say about it, so I tossed the video and the question of what we should expect out of DW4 in Year Two out to my fellow mastheadians.

BFD:

Nick Wright? I’m old enough to remember when Nick Wright said that not taking Johnny Manziel with the #1 overall pick in 2014 would be an “apocalyptic” mistake.

Because Vince Young. Thus, please forgive me if my respect for his opinions about NFL quarterbacks is non-existent.

For me, there are three major variables at play:

1. The scheme. Bill O’Brien made immense changes to his scheme as a result of DW at QB. If BOB continues that trend, instead of forcing a QB to do things he’s not successful doing, that would be a big plus.

2. Regression to the mean. As fantastically awesome as DW’s TD passing rate was last year, there is no reason to ever expect that again, according to a lot of football history. Set your expectations accordingly.

3. Those beautiful throws. The simple fact is that DW is willing to try throws other QBs are not willing to attempt. This is a really big deal, and I believe that, ultimately, it’s what set him apart in 2017.

Fit the scheme around him, understand that some things will likely be worse (and some better!), and if he’s still as willing to push the ball down field, he’s likely to be outstanding in 2018. Those are some pretty big ifs.

Rivers McCown:

There’s really not much of a debate here. Watson will regress some because last year’s statistics were built on (mostly) dumb defenses and small sample size, yet he’ll still be a franchise QB because he’s talented.

Luke Beggs:

He’s going to regress to the mean.

Now what the mean eventually ends up looking like is going to be the real question. Will he have games where he puts 50 or so on the Titans or any other defense that can’t put together a strategy to counter him? Will there also be days when a combination of really good defensive scheming and personnel skill set come together to make Watson’s life a nightmare playing QB? I do think he’s going to be at least a good QB in this league. It’s just a matter of who will figure him out, because someone will.

Kenneth:

Look, the kid has zero ACLs and will be behind the worst offensive line in the NFL. I am worried teams will not overestimate his mobility and they’ll stop running LB spy defenses that decrease pass rush options. The fact that the Texans did not over-invest in the offensive line to protect the team’s only legitimate chance to win a Super Bowl is mind-bending. Watson will be truly running for his life. Yes, he can scramble, great, but scrambling shortens the field ,and with these WRs, we want to spread out and lengthen the field.

There will be a regression from him this year, but I do not think that means he’ll be a completely average QB. I think Watson will be in the first quartile in TDs, INTs, sacks, and rushing yards by a QB. It dos make me nervous going into the season that there is a good chance Watson takes a step back next year. However, after meeting Deshaun and purely being in his presence, I do not think anything anyone has said - either positively or negatively - will affect his mindset.

Looking at the schedule and watching reports from training camp, I think the start of the season will be rough, uphill climb with slow progression as the offense tries to find a balance.

Tim:

In his second NFL season, I fully expect Deshaun Watson to throw more interceptions, and at a greater rate, than he did in 2017. I also expect him to throw more touchdowns, at a lesser rate, than he did in 2017. Teams have film of him playing in the NFL now, and you can bet they’ve studied it. Life will be tougher for Deshaun Watson in Year Two.

But you know what? He’ll adjust too.

One of the things that stuck out to me before training camp began last year was Bill O’Brien’s analysis of his rookie quarterback. Specifically, O’Brien noted that while Watson made mistakes, “you don’t see him make the same mistake twice.” While it may be tempting to discount that assessment, coming from a guy who has also repeatedly contended that he could and would find success with other, let us say, lesser QBs under center, I still think it’s a big deal. Quarterbacks, particularly young ones, are going to screw up. DW4 got away with throws last year that he might not get away with this year. So be it.

He’s going to grow. He’s going to develop. He’s going to study tape of what defenses are trying to do to him, and he’ll respond to that challenge. He’s not a fluke. Everywhere Deshaun Watson has ever been, he’s produced and won. That’s not going to change in Houston.

If he stays healthy, I’m confident Deshaun Watson will be considered an indisputable Top Ten NFL quarterback at the end of 2018, and I may be selling him short with that prediction. I can’t wait to watch it happen.

My .02 Cents...

Both Cris Carter and Nick Wright make valid arguments for and against Deshaun Watson’s ability to continue roasting the NFL in his second season. Carter’s point about the league adjusting to what to the game film they have on DW4 shows them is dead on. History is littered with stories of quarterbacks who had early success and got anointed by the media as the next Hall of Fame QB (Colin Kaepernick, anyone?), only to have that success drop off a cliff once the spotlight focused on ‘em over an offseason.

On the flip side, I watched Watson at Clemson, just as Wright did, and I saw a guy who was utterly amazing. While the “lack of quick release/pitch speed” thing shook my pre-draft resolve, Watson proved me and everyone else wrong last year. And, after shaking his hand and looking him dead in the eye, I saw a champion looking for a place to win.

The third component of this debate is the supporting cast. If the Texans’ defense as a whole and the offensive line can improve from last year, Watson delivering 75% of what he brought in his last four games last year will be more than enough for the Texans to go deep into the playoffs. If not, DW4 will either get hurt again or see one of his best years wasted, just like J.J. Watt did a few seasons ago.

What do you think? Side with Carter? Wright? Neither? Let us know your take on this and how you see 2018 shaping up for #DW4 in the comments section.