HOUSTON -- While Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson struggled at times in his NFL debut on Sunday after replacing starter Tom Savage at halftime, he was praised by the team's coaching staff for his mobility and ability to escape the pocket to make plays.
“Deshaun’s a playmaker,” coach Bill O’Brien said. “He can make plays with his feet. He knows what to do. He checked us in and out of plays. He has good instincts out on the field.”
The Texans are expected to start the rookie quarterback on Thursday night against the Cincinnati Bengals, provided he does not experience any setbacks after injuring his ankle in Sunday's loss. If that ankle injury limits his mobility at all, it would be risky to play Watson on the road on a short week for his first NFL start given the way the offensive line struggled in the season opener. Watson was able to use his feet to escape the pocket on Sunday, but he was still sacked four times in just one half. The Texans allowed a franchise-record 10 sacks in the game.
The Texans' first-round pick, whom they traded their 2018 first-round pick to acquire, was listed as a limited participant on Monday but a full participant in practice on Tuesday. He took every first-team snap in the portion of practice open to the media.
On Sunday, the rookie was 12-of-23 for 102 yards with a touchdown and an interception against the Jaguars and led the Texans down the field on his first NFL drive, throwing a 4-yard scoring pass to DeAndre Hopkins for the Texans' only points. The drive could have ended twice if not for penalties on the Jaguars, one on a third-and-20 and another after a bad pass by Watson that was intercepted in the red zone.
While Savage's mobility hindered him and he didn't lead the Texans to any points, his numbers were similar to Watson's. Savage averaged 4.8 yards per attempt, Watson 4.4. The rookie threw 23 passes, with Houston abandoning the running game while trailing by two possessions the entire second half.
O'Brien is trying to avoid going back and forth with his starters, as he has done in the past, saying he's “going to try [his] best to stick with the decision" after he makes it for Thursday night's game.
O’Brien was asked what else he will take into consideration when determining his choice for Thursday -- and going forward -- including the offensive line. The coach said everything else around the quarterback affects his decision, but it’s important to do what’s right for the team as well.
“You want to try to do the best you can for the player, you want to try to do the best you can for the team when you make those decisions [and] what’s best for the team," O'Brien said. "Every time you make that decision you’re trying to – in your mind, you’re making a decision that affects the whole team. So, you have to do a good job of evaluating not only the player, but everything around the player.”