Sarah Barshop, ESPN Staff Writer 350d

Texans QB Tom Savage getting unexpected second chance as starter

HOUSTON -- Two days after Tom Savage was benched at halftime of the Houston Texans’ season opener, the fourth-year quarterback was asked if he hoped to be given another shot in Week 2 as the starter.

The obvious answer was yes, but given the way rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson played in that game -- and continued to improve as the season went on -- Savage instead became the Texans’ backup quarterback after spending all offseason as the starter.

On Sunday, he will get another chance to prove he deserves the starting job. Watson tore the ACL in his right leg during Thursday’s practice and was put on injured reserve the following day.

“You get another shot at this thing, and not too many guys get a second chance like that,” Savage said. “Just going to take it and have fun with it.

“I was heartbroken [for Watson] as a friend with all this stuff. It was fun watching him. But as a backup quarterback, you’ve got to be ready to go, and these guys need me in this locker room.”

Savage acknowledged Friday that he “can’t really replace Deshaun Watson,” who threw 16 touchdowns in his last four games, and whose 19 passing touchdowns are tied for the NFL lead with Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz.

“[I’m] just going to state the obvious. ... There’s some things that he can do that I can’t do,” Savage said. “The kid’s been playing absolutely lights out, but that’s not my job. My job’s to go out there and help this team win and do whatever I can to help.”

In Savage's lone start of the season, he was 7-of-13 for 62 yards, and he still has not thrown a touchdown pass in the NFL. Texans coach Bill O'Brien said based on what he has seen in practice, Savage "has improved from the last time he played."

“He had a great practice today," O'Brien said Friday. "He’s a very accurate passer. He’s got a very talented arm. Got a good bunch of guys around him. Every game’s different. This is the halfway point of the season, so he’s had a lot more reps."

This is Savage's fourth season in O'Brien's offense, and Savage said he feels "really comfortable" with the system and with O'Brien and quarterbacks coach Sean Ryan. Savage hopes his familiarity with the offensive scheme and the time he spent working with the receivers during the Texans' offseason program and training camp will help him have a smooth transition while taking over for Watson.

When Savage started against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Texans were without wide receiver Will Fuller, who is tied for the team and league lead with seven touchdowns despite breaking his collarbone during training camp and missing the first four weeks of the season. Savage said he hopes to continue the success the Texans' high-powered offense has had, as the unit is averaging 3.3 touchdowns per game.

"He was doing a really good job of throwing the ball down the field," Savage said of Watson. "So, really, that’s kind of what you want to keep doing. You want to keep letting these guys make some big plays for you, and that’s what they’re doing.

“Sometimes you can’t do what Deshaun did, but I’m going to go out there and help this team win. That’s ultimately the final goal here. I’m super confident about it, and I just can’t wait to go.”

Savage is in the final season of his rookie contract and will be an unrestricted free agent after the season. He knows how important the rest of the season will be for his future.

“I think any time a guy has an opportunity like this, it’s really incumbent upon them to seize it and take advantage of it because it can mean a lot," O'Brien said. "Especially at that position, it can mean a lot for your career. No doubt about it. He knows that.”

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