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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After a rough, disheartening loss the night before to even the series at one game apiece, the Astros tried to shake it off and regroup for a win on Thursday to get the series win against the Diamondbacks in Arizona. Here is a quick recap of the finale:

Final Score: Diamondbacks 5, Astros 4.

Record: 6-6, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Junior Guerra (1-0, 0.00 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Ryan Pressly (0-1, 40.50 ERA).

Bielak tosses an impressive start as Houston puts him in winning position

After both teams finished the first three innings scoreless, the Astros were able to get a little bit of good luck on their side, unlike the night prior. Jose Altuve started the inning with a much-needed single, stole second, then moved to third on a groundout for the second out. That set up Yuli Gurriel, who hit a ball down the third-base line that would strike the bag and bounce away from Arizona, allowing Altuve to score and put Houston up 1-0.

Though he likely would have preferred more run support, Brandon Bielak made do with that one run in his first career MLB start. He was able to complete five innings of work, holding Arizona scoreless over that span despite allowing a runner in each inning. He left in line for the win, with a final line of 5.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 1 K, 0 HR.

Altuve extends the lead, then Diamondbacks go ahead

Jose Altuve helped double the lead in the top of the sixth, connecting for a one-out solo home run to make it 2-0. With Bielak's night over at five innings, Cy Sneed took over in the bottom of the sixth and allowed back-to-back one-out doubles to cut Houston's lead in half. He allowed a single to put runners on the corners before Dusty Baker would move on to another reliever to try and preserve the lead. Blake Taylor would enter but allowed the tying RBI-single to take Bielak out of winning position. Taylor would go on to allow a go-ahead run before getting out of the jam.

In the bottom of the seventh, Taylor was still on the mound but would only get two outs before another call to the pen. Andre Scrubb would enter and get the final out of the inning. In the top of the eighth, Jose Altuve would improve to 3-for-4 on the night with a two-out double, setting up Alex Bregman for a go-ahead two-run home run to make it 4-3, Houston.

Ryan Pressly allows the walk-off

Scrubb went back to the mound in the bottom of the eighth and was able to record a 1-2-3 inning to move the game to the ninth. After a scoreless top of the ninth, Ryan Pressly would attempt to get the save in the bottom of the inning. Instead, he would allow the walk-off, loading the bases with no outs on a walk and two singles before a two-RBI single to give Arizona the win and the series victory.

Up Next: The Astros will travel to Oakland to kick off a three-game weekend series with the A's on Friday at 8:10 PM Central. The A's will send Chris Bassitt (1-0, 0.93 ERA) to the mound while Houston will turn to Zack Greinke (0-0, 5.00 ERA) to help cut down Oakland's division lead.

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