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.

 

 

Plenty of bad but recently some great on the short week game for Texans

Throwback Thursdays: Texans history is so so in Thursday games

Tim Warner/Getty Images

This is a list and a few thoughts from the five Thursday Night Football games where Bill O'Brien has been the head coach for the Texans.

2014: The almost comeback for the ages - Texans lose 33-28

This game sucked early, but then almost sucked a lot less. It still sucked in the end but it had one of J.J. Watt's best plays of his career.

The Colts jumped out to an early lead thanks to a Pat McAfee onside kick and a huge T.Y. Hilton play from Andrew Luck. It was one of the signature Hilton games in his time against the Texans. The Colts would lead 24-0 at the end of the first quarter. Ryan Fitzpatrick and Arian Foster along with some stellar defense would get the Texans back in the game but it wasn't enough.

This was the first Thursday game under Bill O'Brien and would be right in the middle of a three game losing streak coming off a bad overtime loss to the Cowboys and ahead of a Monday disaster against the Steelers.

2015: Sick Hasselbeck makes Texans fans sicker - Texans lose 27-20

I always describe this game as the one where Matt Hasselbeck was crapping his pants on the sidelines and still beat the Texans. I am not too wrong about this. He was so sick he didn't practice and yet still had enough for the Colts to beat the Texans. He was also 40 years old too by the way.

This one hurt as it was Andre Johnson's return to Houston but he was wearing a Colts uniform. He scored the opening touchdown and it was pretty much the only good game he had for the Colts that season. He also scored what would be the deciding touchdown in this one.

It also marked one of the quarterback indecision moments of Bill O'Brien's tenure. Ryan Mallett took a big hit and asked out of the game and Brian Hoyer returned to the game and played pretty well. He completed a long pass as time expired to Jaelen Strong (remember that name!?) to get the Texans their first touchdown. Trialing by seven Hoyer threw an interception in Colts territory ending the Texans comeback attempt.

2016: Brissett blows out Brock - Texans lose 27-0

This is one of the worst losses of the Bill O'Brien era. The Patriots were down to their third-string quarterback in the midst of a Tom Brady suspension and Jimmy Garoppolo's injury. Enter Jacoby Brissett and the best coach of all-time to torture Brock Osweiler and the Texans. Oh, by the way, Gronk was hurt too I think.

A field goal by New England put the first points on the board and the Texans fumbled the ensuing kickoff which then moments later saw Brissett take a rush 27 yards to the house. The Texans wouldn't get on the Patriots side of the field until there was a couple of minutes left in the third quarter and they were down 20-0.

We should have all known Osweiler stunk when he couldn't score in this game, but it took me a few more weeks before I really jumped off the Brock train.

2017: The first one for the chosen one - Texans win 13-9

Tom Savage was benched and Deshaun Watson's era began. A short week after sitting behind Savage in training camp and then getting thrown to the Jaguars defense in the second half of week one didn't matter to Watson. It was the start of his coming out party.

The defense kicked ass in this game helping Watson get the first win. The big run above was the moment many of us will never forget when it comes to this Thursday night affair.

2018: Welcome Back Brock - Texans win 42-23

Ah yes, the Brock Osweiler revenge game! The Texans had won four straight after a dreadful start to the season and were coming off a physical game with Jacksonville. This was Brock Osweiler's chance for revenge on the team that jettisoned him after the 2016 season.

There would be little revenge. Credit the Dolphins, they kept the game fairly close until Deshaun Watson started cooking in the second half. Four touchdowns in the second half was quite the efficient showing on just 10 pass attempts.

It was a fun Thursday night contest especially given the Texans history on the short week under O'Brien.

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