Deshaun Watson could make things interesting in New England

Mike Florio
ProFootball Talk on NBC Sports

The Texans get yet another crack at the Patriots with yet another quarterback. Maybe this time it will be different.

Apart from the fact that the New England defense has struggled relative to its past standard in 2017, the Patriots at times have had a hard time corralling and containing quarterbacks who are fleet of foot. Colin Kaepernick stunned them in their own building in 2012. Russell Wilson nearly beat them in a Super Bowl. Now comes Deshaun Watson, whose mobility comes not from straight-line speed but an uncanny ability to weave through bodies in the broken field, like he did with the 49-yard, game-clinching run against the Bengals.

Then there’s the fact that Watson knows a thing or two about performing in a big spot.

“I think anybody that’s played in the type of games that he’s had to play in – look, it’s different, obviously,” coach Bill O’Brien recently told reporters. “It’s the National Football League. But, he’s played in some national championship games. He’s played in big games relative to the ACC in college. Just the environment, dealing with the noise, dealing with the big-game environment, I think that’s important. Now, dealing with the Patriots defense relative to a college defense, that’s a whole other thing. So I’m just talking about noise level and things like that. The thing about Deshaun is he doesn’t get nervous. I asked him before last week’s game, ‘Are you nervous?’ He goes, ‘No, I don’t get nervous.’ And I see that. So I don’t really concern myself too much with that.”

O’Brien needs to concern himself with getting Watson ready on the fly, given that Watson wasn’t the Week One starter. Per a league source, the coaching staff realized Watson is good enough to start based on his performance in the first preseason game, but a variety of factors caused the team to stick with Tom Savage, at least through the first half of the first game that counts. Yes, Watson should have been the starter all along. But he wasn’t and he now is and the Texans and Watson are working hard to help him improve.

“I think the more reps he gets — the game reps, obviously, but the practice reps, he’ll get the bulk of the first-team reps now,” O’Brien said. “And I think, just based on that alone and his film study and learning from week to week, he’ll get better and better.”

Regardless of whether he wins or loses in New England, Watson is clearly the guy, barring injury. And the Texans will win their share of games, especially since they’re solid elsewhere. A win on Sunday would put the league on notice that perhaps, after 15 years of trying, the Texans finally have found a franchise quarterback.

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