Deshaun Watson Continues to Stun the NFL; What Should We Expect Next?

Brent Sobleski@@brentsobleskiNFL AnalystOctober 1, 2017

Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) runs against the Tennessee Titans during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017, in Houston. (AP Photo/George Bridges)
George Bridges/Associated Press

Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson is special, and everyone at the NFL level is getting a taste of the young man's magic. 

"He's maturing more and more every day," wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins said, per the Houston Chronicle's Brian T. Smith. "He has the pedigree to be great."

Eventually, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers will give way to a new generation of signal-callers. Multiple names continue to jockey for position at the head of the pack. Russell Wilson, Derek Carr, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota already have a head start. 

Dubbing Watson a standout performer isn't a groundbreaking proclamation. After all, he dominated at the collegiate level with 10,168 career passing yards, 1,934 rushing yards and 116 total touchdowns. 

His ability to slay the great beast known as the Alabama Crimson Tide and claim a national championship is already viewed as legendary. 

Off the field, he's a generous soul. He donated his first NFL game check to three Texans employees who lost everything in Hurricane Harvey. 

Watson must now be included among those ready to usurp the throne and proclaim dominance after Sunday's 57-14 victory over the Tennessee Titans

During the record-setting performance, the rookie quarterback completed 73.5 percent of his passes for 283 yards and four touchdowns. Watson added 24 yards and another score with his legs. 

Looking back to April's draft, the Clemson product was everything a team would want in a potential franchise quarterback. Yet many questioned how his skill set would translate to the next level. 

"There is so much talk about Deshaun Watson being a franchise quarterback, but that just tells me that nobody has seen the tape on him," an anonymous NFL executive said before the 2016 campaign, per NFL.com's Charles Davis, Lance Zierlein and Chase Goodbread. "His accuracy is just OK and he's not a great decision-maker. Get him out of that offense and he could get lost for a while." 

These concerns, along with his 17 interceptions in 2016, plagued Watson throughout his final evaluation. 

Can he absorb and handle an NFL offense? Does he have enough arm strength? Will his decision-making improve? Is he too small? 

Deshaun Watson drops back to pass against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the 2017 National Championship Game.
Deshaun Watson drops back to pass against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the 2017 National Championship Game.Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

"There's no doubt in my mind that Watson is a big-game player, but I wish he was more consistent," another executive told NFL.com's Bucky Brooks after Watson's final season on campus. "He has enough arm talent and athleticism to be a starter, but he will need to master the game from the pocket to be a legit guy. ... I don't know if he can turn around a downtrodden franchise, but he certainly could function on a team with weapons and a solid supporting cast."

Watson wasn't viewed as a prospect who could carry an offense. As a result, two quarterbacks—Mitchell Trubisky and Patrick Mahomes—came off the board inside the top 10 picks and Watson fell to 12th overall before the Texans traded up to select the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award winner. 

The Chicago Bears, Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Browns may be regretting their decisions to pass on a talent that now looks like the No. 1 overall prospect in hindsight. 

Even the Texans decided not to start the first-year signal caller to open the season in fear of Watson not being ready.

Just three weeks ago, I wrote that Watson couldn't overcome the deficiencies found within the Texas roster. This is my mea culpa. 

Watson outperformed all previous expectations during the last two contests. He threw for 301 yards and nearly upset the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium in just his second start. Houston would have won too, if not for a late-game defensive letdown. 

The Texans set a new single-game scoring record a week later.

Many downplayed what Watson actually brings to an offense. His mobility creates new avenues for the Texans to pursue. 

Tom Savage can't attack defenses with option plays, bootlegs or even avoid pressure in the pocket. Watson can. The 22-year-old's athleticism creates different paths for a coaching staff to explore, as Brooks noted: 

Head coach Bill O'Brien realized he needed to cater his scheme to Watson's skill set for the entire unit to excel. Short, quick reads—such as slant routes—feed into Watson and Hopkins' strengths. The Pro Bowl wide receiver has caught 17 passes for 183 yards over the last two games. The battery is starting to build a rapport that will be difficult to stop with each passing week.

Meanwhile, the team's biggest concern fades with Watson lined up behind center. The Texans offensive line is still problematic. However, a quick passing attack coupled with a mobile quarterback prevents defenses from creating as much pressure as it did at the season's onset. 

"They better get somebody out there that can contain him," teammate Jadeveon Clowney said, per the Houston Chronicle's Aaron Wilson. "Because he can run and he can throw."

Opponents managed only four sacks during the last two contests after the offense surrendered 10 during the season-opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars

An increased tempo also helps create an extra comfort level. Watson became accustomed to working from the shotgun in Clemson's high-octane scheme. This may sound like an oxymoron, but the Texans need to operate faster to slow the game down for their quarterback, because defenses can't substitute or disguise their coverages as much. 

As well as Watson has played, he's not infallible. The Texans' QB1 threw an inexcusable red-zone interception. Fortunately, Houston already held a 30-14 lead over the Titans at the time. 

Rookies are prone to mistakes. Watson isn't any different. But the Texans are now playing to his strengths instead of forcing him into difficult situations. 

Watson's wizardry places him among the league's most promising young signal-callers. And he's rewarding the Texans for their bold draft-day move by not letting preconceived notions determine his destiny. 


Brent Sobleski covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @brentsobleski.

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