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Tom Savage, Deshaun Watson take step forward in preseason opener

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Houston Texans hoped to come out of their first preseason game with a better understanding of where the competition for their starting quarterback job stood. And while Tom Savage got significantly less playing time than Deshaun Watson's two-plus quarters Wednesday night, the Texans saw what they needed to see from both quarterbacks.

Savage started the game and played only three series. He and the offense struggled to move the ball on the first two, and he was a combined 1-of-3 for 2 yards. But Savage looked like a different quarterback when the Texans went with their no-huddle offense on their third drive -- his best series of the night as he completed eight straight passes. Texans coach Bill O'Brien praised Savage's resiliency in being able to come back after the slow start.

"He managed the game well," wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins said. "He did what a quarterback should do. The first two drives didn't go his way, but he came back out and kept the offense out."

Savage finished 9-of-11 for 69 yards. Watson was 15-of-25 for 179 yards, and he also ran three times for 24 yards and a touchdown.

O'Brien said his goal was to let Watson be on the field for a significant portion, to get in his reps in his first NFL game, and was happy with how the rookie handled himself.

"He's a smart player. He's an instinctive player," O'Brien said. "First game out there, I thought he did some good things. That's a big jump from college to the NFL, and I thought he handled it pretty well.

"There were probably a couple of things that we could have done differently. He could have played a little bit better on certain plays. But I thought overall, he handled himself pretty well for the first time out."

All offseason, O'Brien has preached how difficult it is for a quarterback to start in his rookie season, noting the challenges of learning a new, complex offense. O'Brien said he needed to look at the tape to determine how Watson and Savage handled the offense, but the coach said he thought both quarterbacks did a good job.

While it was just the preseason opener, Savage showed he could handle being a starter, and Watson showed promise with the second team and gave the Texans a glimpse at what their future at quarterback could look like.

"It's a start," Watson said. "I've got to enjoy the process and stay on track and try to get better, find ways to get better. I've got to stay hungry and continue to work."