A star in the making

The Texans have a new face of the franchise in Deshaun Watson

Deshaun Watson leaves the field after Sunday's win over Cleveland. Tim Warner/Getty Images

Since midway through the 2011 season, J.J. Watt has been the face of the Texans, the reason people tuned in to watch the team. He has been one of the biggest stars in the league both on and off the field. It was a crushing blow when he went down with another season-ending injury last week. He missed all but three games last season, and basically played four plus games this year. 

Watt's presence is huge, and the Texans scrambled to make the playoffs without him last year, mostly because the defense was phenomenal.

This year, the team has a new leader, and he is on the other side of the ball.

The torch was probably going to be passed sooner rather than later, but Watt's injury hastened the change.

Deshaun Watson is now the face of the Texans.

Six games into his NFL career.

Watson led the Texans to an easy 33-17 win over Cleveland on Sunday. Yes, the Browns are terrible, but Watson continues to impress.

With most NFL teams, the quarterback is the face of the franchise. The Texans have had a lot of ugly faces over the years, and none of them was a player you would spend money to buy their jersey or pay to see play. None would be a player that the rest of the nation would tune in to see.

Watson is all that. He is a legitimate star in the making and came in with a substantial buzz after leading Clemson to the national title, beating mighty Alabama. Since he has taken over the offense, the Texans have been nothing short of dynamic, scoring 30 or more points in four straight games.

There are so many reasons to like Watson. He's smart. A good person off the field and an exciting player on it. He is an accurate passer, and his mobility has opened up the Texans offense and made Bill O'Brien look like the genius we were told he was. Finally, the Texans O looks like an NFL unit, and O'Brien's playcalling has been creative and effective.

And Watson makes it all go. His threat to run creates lanes for his backs. His elusiveness in the pocket and awareness keeps plays and drives alive. 

His numbers Sunday were not jaw dropping (17 of 28, 225 yards, 3 TDs, 1 interception; 5 rushes for 24 yards) but he continues to produce points and limit negative plays. His accuracy was not as sharp against the Browns, and he had some throws he would like to get back, especially the pick six. But for the most part he continues to avoid negative plays that plagued the offense in the past. He has yet to fumble the football. He has 15 TD passes and just five picks. He has also run for two touchdowns. He was sacked just once on Sunday.

That he did it against the Browns had to sting for Cleveland fans, since the Browns -- who have had quarterback issues longer than the Texans -- traded the pick that became Watson.

You have to wonder they were thinking. And what the Bears were thinking when they took Mitchell Trubisky. 

Would Watson have been as effective in Cleveland or Chicago? 

Probably. He has the it factor. He may be the best QB in the city since the man he honored by wearing a No. 1 Warren Moon jersey before the game. 

There will be hiccups. Bad games. Bad plays, like the interception. He still has much to learn, but he picks things up fast. The Texans have long sought The Man at quarterback. They have that. And he is well on his way to being a star.

And the new face of the franchise.

 

 

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF O'BRIEN'S COACHING

Not my job: Texans outmatched when it counts against Steelers

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Another game, another loss for the Texans. This time it was only a seven point loss to the Steelers as they fell 28-21 in Pittsburgh. This time around, Bill O'Brien looked to be on his game as far as decision-making was concerned. However, there is still room for improvement.

One thing that I did appreciate that O'Brien did was have trust in the offensive line. The Steelers pass rush could be problematic, but their defense overall is very stout. That's how they were able to nearly make the playoffs last year with a Duck at quarterback. While the Texans did give up five sacks, they weren't all due to poor offensive line play. The Texans lost 33 yards on those five sacks. Tytus Howard and Zach Fulton handled themselves fairly well after looking like turnstiles the first two games. O'Brien called longer developing pass plays and play action in spite of this and it paid off with Deshaun Watson and his receivers putting up 264 yards in the air.

There also wasn't an instance of Bumbling Bill this game. At the end of the first half, there was a minute and fourteen seconds left. The Texans were down 17-14 and had all three timeouts with the ball on their 25-yard line. Classic Bumbling Bill situation right? Wrong! Not only was the play-calling on point, but the players executed and the timeout situation was handled perfectly. First timeout was used after getting to midfield with 47 seconds left. Timeout number two was used after a 20 yard gain after the previous play. A 15 yard gain later to the Steeler 14-yard line and timeout number three was used with 28 seconds left. This set up perfectly for them to call a multitude of plays. They only needed one as Watson found Will Fuller in the end zone on a jump ball in which Fuller rose up and was physical enough to grab the ball over the defender. They went up 21-17 at the half.

Bill O'Brien's teams were 37-3 when leading at halftime. I say "were" because they lost this one after not scoring a single point in the second half. This was more on the defense not being able to fight its way out of a wet paper bag, and a lack of execution by the offense. Specifically, the run defense has been atrocious and Watson either needs quicker reads or to stop holding onto the ball so long by making quicker decisions. That's on coaching to put players in positions to succeed, but also the players to execute.

Ultimately, this was on O'Brien the general manager more than O'Brien the coach. This roster is woefully outmatched. The only time an outmatched roster can compete consistently is in college football with a wacky offense. It just doesn't happen in the NFL. Hey, at least Bumbling Bill didn't rear his butt chin today. Today's Culture Map play call menu was brought to you by Pour Behavior. I suggest getting over there and checking out their daily specials.

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