The key to Houston making a deep run in the playoffs -- and perhaps getting to a Super Bowl for the first time -- is sustaining productivity across a full season. Watson will have to do it with what looks like a very different offense after the Texans traded All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and did not re-sign running back Carlos Hyde, who had a career year with Houston in 2019.
Texans coach Bill O’Brien said it’s clear Watson has “a really good grasp of our offense” and is “playing at a really high level.”
“The leadership, the knowledge of the offense, what we want to do as a whole, has been simplified for me just because it’s Year 4 for me,” Watson said. “Having that comfortability and having that confidence on exactly what we’ve been learning over the past three years now getting into my Year 4 and being with [offensive coordinator] Tim [Kelly] and spending a whole year last year on his mindset and what he’s thinking and now he’s the playcaller.
“Now having that, we’re being on the same page and I already know before each situation what he’s thinking, so we’re on the same page. I think that’s the next step that I’ve been taking with him, and it’s been good.”
Watson knows the Texans’ offense so well that running back David Johnson said the quarterback is so “into the playbook” that “you would think he came up with it himself.”
“I knew he was a great quarterback, and I knew he was a great scrambler, [but] I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is how smart he is and how well he knows the offense,” said Johnson, who was acquired in the Hopkins trade in March.
O’Brien has seen how smart Watson is on and off the field in his first three seasons, saying he not only shows an “ability to really understand what he just saw” during practice, when he rarely makes -- or repeats -- mistakes, but during the team’s nightly Zoom calls as well.
“He is one of the most phenomenal quarterbacks I’ve ever played for,” tight end Darren Fells said. “His ability to learn from mistakes extremely quick is huge. I’ve never seen him miss two passes twice. He’ll miss one at practice one day and then he’ll never miss that again. That, in my mind, is one of the main differences that make up an average quarterback and a great quarterback. His ability to communicate, both in the huddle, on the field, off the field, is huge.
“It just shows that he’s maturing extremely fast and he’s on another level when it comes to that ability.”
Watson's ultimate goal is a Super Bowl title, something that would give him championships at all levels.
“I’m trying to pull a big three,” Watson said. “I won a state championship [at Gainesville High School in Georgia], I won a national championship [at Clemson], so of course I’m trying to get a Super Bowl. I’m trying to, of course, be legendary. That’s [been] my word since college, and for me to be that, I have to win a Super Bowl and definitely win it with the Houston Texans.
“We’ve never won one here before, and we haven’t even come on the brink of winning one. We’ve got to get to that game before that, and then of course we can think about that. But yeah, I’m trying to create history and continue that and make it a dynasty.”
Watson was in the NFL MVP conversation after the Texans beat the Chiefs on the road in Week 6. Through nine games in 2019, he had a passer rating of 107.1, a completion percentage of 70.2 and an average of 270.2 passing yards per game. Watson won some big games after that -- beating the Patriots on Sunday Night Football and going to Tennessee two weeks later to beat the Titans -- but didn’t play up to the level of the eventual MVP, Lamar Jackson, whose Baltimore Ravens beat the Texans 41-7 in Week 11.
In 15 games last season, Watson threw for 3,852 yards with 26 touchdowns and 12 interceptions and ran for 495 more yards and seven touchdowns. He said one aspect of his game he wants to improve this season is “just trying to be more detailed and just trim down the MEs -- the mental errors.”
“I’ve tried to learn from other people’s mistakes, and if I make an ME [mental error], I make sure that I kind of correct that because a lot of eyes are on me,” Watson said. “I control what I can do out there on the field and everyone is following.
“As far and as good as I go as a quarterback, that’s how far and as good as the team is going to go. I have to have that mentality each and every practice, each and every day.”