WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- Although rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson had a promising NFL debut on Wednesday night, it will still be an uphill battle for him to beat out Tom Savage to finish training camp as the Houston Texans' starting quarterback.
Texans head coach Bill O'Brien has said time and time again that Savage is his starting quarterback right now, but has left open the possibility that Watson could win the job in training camp.
There are likely two options that could give Watson a legitimate chance to surpass Savage: The fourth-year quarterback gets injured, or he struggles mightily in Houston's next two preseason games AND Watson blows the coaching staff away.
O'Brien said he was happy with the jobs both quarterbacks did against the Carolina Panthers; Savage played three series, going 9-of-11 for 69 yards. Watson finished 15-of-25 for 179 yards and added three carries for 24 yards and a rushing touchdown.
"I thought both of those guys had their moments where they were really playing well," O'Brien said. "To me, it was a typical first preseason game. There was some good, some not so good [and] a lot to build on."
Watson was drafted into a unique situation in Houston -- a playoff team trading up to draft a quarterback with the No. 12 pick. According to ESPN Stats and Information, it's not often that a winning team starts a rookie quarterback the following season. The last time a team coming off of a winning record and a playoff appearance had a rookie quarterback start more than four games was in 2006, when Bruce Gradkowski started 11 games for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Watson has said he is not concerned about where he stands on the quarterback depth chart because when he gets his opportunity he "is going to take advantage of it."
"I've got to enjoy the process and stay on track and try to get better, find ways to get better," Watson said. "I've got to stay hungry and continue to work."
Although Savage is in the pole position right now, he is an unproven starter who has never thrown an NFL touchdown pass. He also has been injured in each of his first three NFL seasons, missing all of 2015 with a shoulder injury.
But on Wednesday night, Savage did exactly what he needed to do in the preseason opener. If he continues to impress -- regardless of what Watson does -- it will be easy for O'Brien to stay with the status quo and start him on Sept. 10 against the Jacksonville Jaguars.