Before plummeting into an admitted knee-jerk reaction that’ll likely come back to haunt me, let me contextualize what we saw from Houston’s rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson:
It’s the preseason.
Boom, context provided.
Watson’s minuscule sample size of 25 passes and three runs (including a touchdown) on Wednesday night isn’t enough to make a long-term prediction. However, Tennessee Titan fans shouldn’t worry about the former Clemson Tiger. At least, in 2017 that is.
Besides, before Watson ever dreams of giving Titan fans nightmares, the fans down in Tuscaloosa have to get him out of their nightmares first.
If I hadn’t watched Watson’s debut Wednesday night and instead based my opinion off of my Twitter feed, then Watson was obviously the second coming. Maybe he actually is, and if so, that’s awesome.
However, based on my eyes, it’s crystal clear that Watson isn’t ready to start. Only a savage can handle the tempo and intricacies of regular season defenses with such little experience. Luckily, Houston has Tom Savage.
Call me a contrarian, but Watson didn’t nail my jaw to the floor. He didn’t launch me into Watson-mania. What he did accomplish was reaffirm my evaluation of him heading into the draft: A natural leader and cut-throat competitor who makes questionable decisions and lacks eye-popping arm talent.
Before you play the “he didn’t throw an interception so that means he doesn’t make questionable decisions” card on me, it actually wasn’t impressive that Watson didn’t throw a pick. If a quarterback is hellbent on not throwing an interception, then they’ll pull off every magic trick in the book to avoid it.
Here’s the reality: Behind the seemingly clean stat line of 15-of-25 for 179 yards, was a quarterback who stood in the pocket for an eternity, progressed through his reads at a snail’s pace, and showed off an arm with barely any zip.
— NFL (@NFL) August 10, 2017
It was awkward to watch, and that’s because Watson travelled to the deepest, darkest parts of the Universe in order to not throw an interception. On its surface, that critique appears ludicrous, but going through the motions of preseason doesn’t accurately represent what transpires come September. Against rookie signal callers, defenses throw the kitchen sink by showing exotic packages, disguising coverages, and launching all-out assaults. But that doesn’t start until the regular season. It’s a world where only sharp decision makers survive. Currently, Watson is much too hesitant to fit that description.
To be fair to Watson, he was playing with Houston’s second team. In my kindest evaluation, I would still describe that unit as dreadful. It was as if each player’s personal mission was to ruin a play by committing a penalty. The fact that there’s no news of Watson being arrested for attempted murder of his own teammates is astounding. He clearly wasn’t affected externally by the mounds of trash surrounding him.
Because of this, every analyst claimed Watson showed exceptional poise, as if he was supposed to throw a pick-six on every throw. Everyone was also quick to point out that he wasn’t nervous, but was he supposed to be? He was the third quarterback taken in the draft making his preseason debut as the clear backup.
Watson will eventually start over Tom Savage. That isn’t debatable. But his time isn’t now, and no amount of references to his performances against Alabama can make that untrue. He completed a few nice passes, scored on an impressive touchdown scamper, and didn’t unravel. But he isn’t on a level that should scare Titan fans in 2017.
Come 2018, that’ll probably change.