TEXANS QB HAS MADE ESCAPING TROUBLE ELEMENTARY AS HE CONTINUES TO MAKE MAGIC HAPPEN.

Watson: Houdini with a helmet on

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Deshaun Watson has matured right before our eyes as he continues to get better and better. He has continually overcome injury, survived his early years with the Bill O' Brien offense and the bad o-line that came with it and learned from each mistake he has made along the way. He knows when to stay in the pocket and go through his progressions and when to tuck it and run. His passing skills have always been good but they seemingly improve with every snap and the fact that he faces the music and the media when he plays poorly and then goes back to the lab to get better means his dedication to his craft lives up to the growing hype train that is rolling down the tracks. Houston and fans of the Texans everywhere need to appreciate what they get to witness every week when No. 4 gets behind center for their team and be thankful that after all those lean QB years with a revolving door of misfits and journeymen, you finally have your franchise quarterback.

Texans Rick Smith Bill O'Brien, Tytus Howard, Brian GaineComposite photo by Brandon Strange

I know it's hard to fathom, but in an indirect way, you have to thank Brock Osweiler for getting Watson to H-town. If Osweiler had remotely worked out after the team signed him to a huge free-agent deal, you would never have Watson in red, white and blue. Be thankful Rick Smith tried to right his wrong and no matter the price and how many draft picks were lost in the process, the moves he made to make drafting the Clemson QB a reality were worth every penny. The Chicago Bears surely have to be kicking themselves as they did what Smith and the Texans did, giving up a future first-round pick to get their franchise quarterback, but Mitch Trubisky is no Deshaun Watson or Patrick Mahomes for that matter. Both MVP candidate quarterbacks went later in the same draft and were passed over by the Bears who felt "Maseratii Mitch" was better. Thank goodness they did as Chiefs fans and Texans fans will always look back on those draft day dealings and feel thankful.

The early returns on the 2017 QB class gave all the accolades and the top billing to Mahomes and rightfully so. After sitting out his first year to learn the ropes, system and coaching staff, he took the league by storm and became a human highlight reel every Sunday. The season culminated with a tough loss to the Patriots in the AFC Championship game, but also with Mahomes winning the NFL MVP Award. Could you imagine if Watson had an innovative offensive mind like Andy Reid from the start? What if he had the Chiefs o-line? Can you imagine Watson operating with all the weapons Mahomes had and has at most every skill position? I say that to make the point that the media and most experts thought it was a no-brainer that Mahomes was the cream of the 2017 crop of QB's and forgot the fact that Houston was still putting pieces around their QB1 and once they did, he would continue to get better and better.

He also had to overcome the after-effects of an injury suffered in the midst of a season that almost surely was headed for rookie of the year as well as MVP consideration. As we look at the two quarterbacks now, it's more of a dead heat and toss-up than it was just a year ago and the future may very well dictate that Deshaun will be king of the hill when all is said and done. Regardless of how it all ends, be thankful you will be along for the ride, every step of the way, as he leads your team into battle for each and every game. As much as people scoffed at Dabo Sweeney when he proclaimed the whichever team drafted Watson, his college QB, was getting the Michael Jordan of football, he doesn't look too far off as we watch Watson's meteoric rise.

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Texans training camp observations from 8/10. Still footage by Cody Stoots.

The Houston Texans inched closer to their preseason debut. Here are 11 observations from a hotly contested practice.

1. Derek Stingley did it again. The rookie continues to get more and more work. It had been rare to see Stingley win a big rep against Brandin Cooks, but that changed Wednesday. Cooks planted and turned for a comeback route as Davis Mills was letting the ball go. Stingley planted himself, and I didn’t think he would make it to the ball. Well, not only did he make it, but he also had an interception bounce off his hands. The defense had a little buzz to it after the play from the rookie. It was an example of the eye-popping potential and continued growth for Stingley.

2. A few plays later, Stingley showed his agility and closing speed on a play where he ended up defending Nico Collins. It was a different task for Stingley, but he recognized where the ball was headed and went to close on Collins. Collins dropped the pass, but even had he caught it, Stingley was there to keep it a short gain.

3. Jalen Pitre was named a starter on the team’s unofficial initial depth chart. He’s earned it. Pitre flashes constantly and some of the early hiccups from camp are no longer present. Pitre skied over Brandin Cooks, didn’t interfere, and knocked a ball away. He’s going to be a must-watch in the preseason games.

4. Dameon Pierce has a nice burst and he’s stocky, but on Wednesday I saw some patience and vision from him. The rookie running back darted through a slow-developing hole for a big gain. Pierce catches the ball a fair amount as well, despite the fact his college games didn’t feature that a ton when you watched him play at Florida.

5. I was concerned about Dameon Pierce’s pass blocking, and I still want to see what it looks like at full speed. Wednesday showed he has a decent idea of what to accomplish. Pierce chipped a rusher that was about to beat the offensive tackle, allowing Davis Mills to complete a huge play to Brandin Cooks.

6. Davis Mills and Brandin Cooks finally hooked up on a long pass and made it look easy. It was in stride, on target, and went for a gain of over 30 yards. Mills had to step up a little to make the throw. It was a tight pocket, and he dropped it right into the bread basket of Cooks. It elicited the biggest cheer of the day from the fans in attendance.

7. Towards the end of practice, it was Davis Mills and Brandin Cooks again. The situational football was in full effect as the offense was drilling a 4th and 10 from the 20-yard-line setup. Mills had to buy a little time, and the offensive line held up well, but he saw Cooks coming open and fired to the back corner of the end zone. Two feet for Brandin Cooks and a touchdown. The defense was exasperated. They’d done almost all they could to contain Cooks.

8. It wasn’t the best day overall from the offense. In part, the defense had some nice plays. There was a little sloppiness from the offense overall. Some were almost connections. I will say though, that one bad play doesn’t feel like it dooms the offense anymore. There is hope if there is ever a negative play or an incomplete pass. It didn’t feel that way last season.

9. Maliek Collins might be a problem this year. For opposing teams, I mean, not the Texans. Collins had a couple of bad penalties last year and came up close on a few plays. He again had a nice play that would have resulted in a sack. It’s fun to see his potential show in camp, I am excited to see him and All-Pro guard, Quenton Nelson, in week one of the season.

10. Kevin Pierre-Lewis is healthy and ready to contribute. He was step for step on a Brandin Cooks wheel route that ended up being an incomplete pass. With some injuries in the linebacker group, the veteran has a chance to start or at least play a lot.

11. The preseason game is on Saturday against the Saints. Here are four players on offense and four players on defense I will be watching very closely. On offense guard Max Scharping, running back Dameon Pierce, wide receiver Phillip Dorsett, and wide receiver Chad Beebe is who I will be looking for the most. On defense edge rusher Rasheem Green, defensive tackle Kurt Hinish, linebacker Neville Hewitt, and any rookie who plays.

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