NFL 2019: Watson ready to take next step for Texans in 2019

KRISTIE RIEKEN (AP Sports Writer)
The Associated Press

HOUSTON (AP) -- As coach Bill O'Brien prepared for his third season with Deshaun Watson he was asked what he likes best about his star quarterback.

O'Brien paused for a few seconds. And even after pondering the query for a bit he still couldn't land on just one quality he values most in Watson.

''There's a lot of good things,'' O'Brien said. ''He's got really good poise. He's a smart guy. He's a very accurate passer. He throws a great deep ball. He knows our offense really well, works hard at it. He's just an awesome guy to coach.''

Scroll to continue with content
Ad

O'Brien and the Texans are counting on Watson to take another step forward this year after he threw for 4,165 yards and 26 touchdowns last season to help the team win the AFC South title before losing to the Colts in the wild-card round. Watson started each game in 2018 after playing just seven games as a rookie before sustaining a season-ending knee injury.

Now that Watson, the 12th overall pick in the 2017 draft, is comfortable in O'Brien's offense, he's looking to fine tune things he believes will help the team run smoother.

''The biggest thing now is being as detailed as I can,'' he said. ''Knowing that each play matters, regardless of what quarter it's in, what down and distance. Being able to take advantage of the open plays, being able to take advantage of scoring touchdowns. Little things like that.

''Because in that fourth quarter, as you see in every NFL game, it's rare where you have a team that's blowing out teams,'' he continued. ''Every week is a test and it comes down to that last drive or a two-minute situation.''

Here are some things to watch for this season:

PROTECTING WATSON

The Texans are focused on better protecting Watson after he was sacked an NFL-leading 62 times. He started every game last season but was hurt for a chunk of the schedule while dealing with a partially collapsed lung and broken ribs from taking hit after hit.

This year he'll play behind a revamped line which is looking for veteran left tackle Matt Kalil to return from injury to anchor the group, and expecting a solid season from right tackle Seantrel Henderson after he broke his ankle in Week 1 of 2018. Houston also needs tackle Tytus Howard to contribute immediately after selecting him with the 23rd overall pick in this year's draft.

Howard was a high school quarterback who became a lineman after growing into his 6-foot-5, 322-pound frame at Alabama State. The Texans value his versatility and have moved him around a lot throughout camp to see where he'll be most effective.

''He's a very versatile guy,'' O'Brien said. ''But, remember, the other thing about Tytus, he's a rookie and he's really only played offense line for three years, I think it is. So, he's learning every day, but he's going to be a really good player.''

WATT'S UP

Three-time Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt returns after a comeback season when he earned All-Pro honors with 61 tackles, led the AFC with 16 sacks, had 25 quarterback hits, 18 tackles for losses and forced a career-high seven fumbles, which tied for the most in the NFL. It was his fourth season with at least 15 sacks, which ranks second in NFL history behind Hall of Famer Reggie White, who had five.

His big season came after he'd played just eight games over the previous two years because of injuries, and Watt was eager to see what he'll be able to do after a healthy offseason.

''Last year I had an idea of what I wanted to accomplish and I hoped I could accomplish it, but I wasn't 100 percent sure because I hadn't really played in a couple of years,'' he said. ''So, this year I have a lot of confidence going in. I have a lot of excitement, I have a lot of energy, I have a solid base where I know where I'm at.''

HOPKINS' HOPES

DeAndre Hopkins ranked third in the NFL with a career-high 1,572 yards receiving last season. But he isn't worried about surpassing those numbers or setting any statistical goals for himself. The three-time Pro Bowler is only focused on one goal as he enters his seventh NFL season.

''Everybody who plays football should have their goal to win championships,'' he said. ''If you don't, then there's no need to come to practice. I feel like that's the mindset of every football player. Not just mine.''

CLOWNEY COMING?

Outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney missed all of training camp, unhappy that he and the team couldn't agree to a long-term deal. But the Texans expect him to sign his franchise tender and be ready for the start of the season. Clowney has kept in touch with defensive line coach Anthony Weaver and he believes the top overall pick in the 2014 draft will be able to get up to speed quickly once he returns.

''He's just got to get back into football shape,'' Weaver said. ''I don't expect that to be very long. I know he's been working and I know he's chomping at the bit to get back out here.''

---

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL

What to Read Next