QB PRIMER

Houston Texans positional preview: Quarterback

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images.

Over the next few weeks, we'll break down all the positions and hopefuls for the final 53-man roster. We begin with the team's most important position — quarterback.

It seemed like yesterday former general manager Rick Smith completed the most compelling trade in Houston Texans' history.

Three years later, Smith's risky decision has paid off. Not only has Deshaun Watson established himself as the best quarterback in franchise history, but one of the finest the league has to offer at his position. For a team coming into the 2020 season with a plethora of fresh faces, Watson's return as Houston's unheralded starting quarterback appears to be the only familiarity in what will be an abnormal year for the Texans.

Deshaun Watson: Starter

On the cusp of his fourth season, Deshaun Watson will be just as good as he was during his first three years in the league. Sure, the loss of DeAndre Hopkins will have its effect at the start of the year. However, Watson's supporting cast is too talented for him to regress.

In 2019, the 24-year-old quarterback finished the season with 3,852 passing yards and 26 touchdowns in 15 regular-season games. If Watson had played in the Texans' final regular-season game, he would have notched over 4,000 passing yards for the second straight year — averaging 256.8 yards per game. As one of the league's best dual-threat quarterbacks, Watson recorded seven rushing touchdowns to go along with 413 yards on 82 carries.

He nearly cut his 2018 sack numbers in half thanks to an improved offensive line (62), but 44 hits from behind the line of scrimmage are far from ideal for a franchise quarterback. Although nicknamed "The Houston Houdini," it may be beneficial for Watson to give up the ball sooner to avoid various unnecessary hits in 2020.

However, regardless of the number of times he hit the ground, Watson will be the starting quarterback in Houston. And there isn't anything anyone can do to dispute his case.

A.J. McCarron: Backup

A.J. McCarron appeared in two games for 69 snaps in 2019. Even though he does not see the field too much playing behind Watson, Houston has a reliable substitute should something happen to their franchise quarterback. The Alabama prodigy showcased his talents for a full 45 minutes during the Texans' Week 17 loss to the Titans. He threw for 225 yards to go along with 39 rushing yards and a touchdown — in what was his first start since 2015.

Although it was one game as the starter. McCarron's performance was enough for the Texans to re-sign the veteran quarterback to a one-year deal worth $4 million with $3.75 million guaranteed. In 15 career games, McCarron has thrown for 1,153 passing yards and six touchdowns — while completing 62.4% of his attempts.

Alex McGough: Third String

Drafted in the seventh round (No. 220 overall) by the Seattle Seahawks in 2018, Alex McGough has yet to make an appearance in a regular-season NFL game. After the Jaguars waived him last January, McGough spent the 2019 season as a member on the Texans' practice squad.

McGough played four years at Florida International University, where he ended his collegiate career with 9,091 passing yards and 65 touchdowns for the Golden Panthers. In January of this year, the Texans signed the 24-year-old quarterback to a reserve-future deal.

Nick Tiano: Depth

Nick Tiano is one of nine undrafted rookies who signed with the Texans in April. The 6-foot-5 quarterback played his collegiate career at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga — where Tiano recorded 744 yards and 10 touchdowns in 28 career games.

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans loss rests squarely on this decision

Another tough loss for the Texans. Photo by Getty Images.

There are times in which you gamble and it pays off. Then there are times in which you gamble and lose badly. Today was definitely the latter. The Texans fell to the Titans 42-36 in an overtime thriller. The loss rests squarely on the head of interim head coach Romeo Crennel and his ill-timed gambling at the end of the game.

It started with the gamble to go for it on 4th&1 on the Titans' 35-yard line with 4:37 left in the game. That move said two things: A) we're on the road at 1-4 against the 4-0 division leader up by one point so let's try to end this, or B) I don't trust our kicker to make a 53-yard field goal. They converted because David Johnson is good for slamming into the backs of the offensive line for at least a yard or three. The next gamble came eight plays later. It was 4th & Goal from the 1-yard line. The play call was a pass. Deshaun Watson found Randall Cobb after scrambling to extend the play and putting the ball in a tight window on the sideline where only Cobb could catch it. Here's where I started to have a problem with the gambling.

That touchdown made it 36-29 in favor of the Texans. Up by seven with less than two minutes left in the game, the "right" call would be to kick the extra point to potentially go up by eight. That forces the opposition to have to score a touchdown and convert a two point conversion in order to tie the game. Alas...Crennel gambled by trying to force things, went for two, and came up short. Kenny Rogers once said: You've got to know when to hold 'em. Know when to fold 'em. Know when to walk away. Know when to run.

The porous defense, however, gave up the game tying touchdown and extra point with four seconds left to send the game into overtime. From there, the Titans got the ball in overtime and drove down the field for the game winning score. A team that played a game on Tuesday evening bullied a team on Sunday at noon. Let that sink in. Sure, Derrick Henry is a linebacker playing running back, but the amount of yards you gave up to him was unacceptable.

Not kicking that extra point to go up by eight with less than two minutes left (1:50 to be exact) was the key coaching move that I feel cost them the game. There's no coming back from blunders like that when you're now 1-5 and would need to go at least 8-2 with tons of help down the stretch to have an outside shot at the newly created seventh spot in the playoffs. You had the division leader down and were in position to get a division win to go to 2-4. Instead, you're now in position to help the Dolphins continue to improve their franchise from the boneheaded decisions Bill O'Brien made before his exit. Crennel and staff coached a good game, until the end when it mattered most. With an extra playoff spot available, they still have an outside shot to make it, but it'll be difficult.

This city and fanbase deserve better. One day, they'll get it and get a winner. Until then unfortunately, they'll have to settle for purgatory, disappointment, and mediocrity. Hold tight. I see good things coming one day Houston football fans.

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