A few days ago, I was having a conversation with Daily News community news editor (and fellow Pigskin Picks panelist) Angela Wilson, and she asked me when I thought Houston Texans rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson would get his first game action.
Knowing how hesitant the Texans were to make a QB switch last season despite former starter Brock Osweiler’s struggles (granted, the franchise had 72 million reasons to give him every chance to succeed), I estimated they would let Week 1 starter Tom Savage struggle his way through three games, pulling the plug after a final indignation in Foxboro.
Boy, did I underestimate just how bad Savage could be.
I stated in a past column that it makes little sense to delay the progress of the first-round pick Watson by keeping him on the bench, but I also understood that Savage did what he needed to do in the preseason to maintain the starting job, posting an excellent 102.3 QB rating in the Texans’ three games that don’t count.
Luckily in the Texans’ first game of the year that mattered, Savage wasted no time in showing he (still) had little to offer at the QB position, and he was replaced by Watson at halftime.
“The decision to go with Deshaun really didn’t have a whole lot to do with — it had more to do with, could we find the spark? Could we find somebody that could maybe make a play, that could escape the pocket?” Texans head coach Bill O’Brien said.
O’Brien was unsurprisingly noncommittal on the QB situation moving forward into a short week with a Thursday game at Cincinnati up next, but it should be even more clear now that delaying Watson’s progress makes no sense.
Yes, Watson didn’t look much better Sunday, and he’s going to make rookie mistakes along the way, but he’s the one who has the star potential, and the sooner he can get the needed game action under his belt (and get those mistakes out of his system), the better.
Quarterback play isn’t the only issue facing these Texans, who not only posted a rare season-opening loss (had won six of last seven openers prior to Sunday), but had an all-around embarrassing defeat.
Making the brutal loss even harder to swallow is that it came against a division opponent that the Texans have dominated in recent years. The Texans had won six in a row against the Jacksonville Jaguars, and the loss snapped a franchise-record-long winning streak against a specific team.
The defense, which is supposed to be the Texans’ strength, got pushed around by the Jaguars, and made struggling fourth-year quarterback Blake Bortles look like a seasoned professional.
“It was a terrible day on offense, but it wasn’t much better defensively,” O’Brien said.
As I stated on the Texans page in the county football preview magazine: on paper, the Texans’ defense looks downright scary with pass rushers J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus, but don’t forget that the front office let key defensive starters A.J. Bouye, Quintin Demps and John Simon walk away in free agency and made no new signings to fill those holes.
Without talented but unsung players like those three, Jacksonville easily negated the Texans’ pass rush by pounding the rock with bruising rookie running back Leonard Fournette — and don’t think other teams around the NFL aren’t taking notes.
“Terrible. No other way to put it,” Watt said. “So, there’s only one way to go from here, and that’s up. Can’t play much worse. Very excited it’s a Thursday game coming up and we get a chance to go out there and play football again very soon, because you don’t like to let a taste like this sit in your mouth too long.”
Now a member of the Jaguars, Bouye looked especially sharp, while the Texans’ new starting cornerback opposite Johnathan Joseph, Kevin Johnson, had a game to forget. Newly promoted defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel often times called complex schemes for a defense that may need to stick to the basics for a while.
Also not addressed in free agency was an offensive line in need of some upgrades. Already a below-average unit, the O-line also was without its best member, Duane Brown (who is holding out in contract negotiations), and they put on an absolute travesty of a performance Sunday, allowing a whopping 10 sacks.
Finally, while the Texans’ running game wasn’t terrible Sunday, whatever happened to promising rookie D’Onta Foreman taking some of the workload off Lamar Miller?
Miller finished with 65 yards on 17 carries and 31 yards on two receptions, while Foreman had just one carry for 4 yards.
Foreman, who flashed big-time playmaking ability in the preseason certainly deserves more opportunities with the ball in his hands than that.