Saturday 21st July, 2018
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Watson impressive in NFL debut

Sports Xchange - Saturday 12th August, 2017

HOUSTON -- Houston Texans rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson calmly surveyed his surroundings while defenders gave chase, keeping his gaze locked downfield to pick out his targets.

When Watson discovered there was too much of a crowd surrounding his receivers, he made a quick, aggressive decision while operating out of the shotgun formation.

Watson scrambled untouched into the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown run during the third quarter of his NFL debut Wednesday night in a 27-17 preseason loss to the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium.

Displaying uncommon poise for a young quarterback along with elusiveness and sound decision-making, the precocious first-round draft pick from Clemson delivered some impressive moments while adjusting to the jump in competition.

"This is professional football, this is the highest level of this sport," Watson said. "It's going to be faster, bigger guys, smarter guys. At the same time, I'm doing the same thing they're doing: watching film and trying to play fast."

Watson was too fast for most defenders using his mobility to create passing lanes. He routinely avoided pressure for the majority of the game, but was sacked three times and was pulled out of the game and replaced by Brandon Weeden after being sacked on consecutive plays in the fourth quarter.

In relief of starting quarterback Tom Savage, Watson completed 15 of 25 passes for 179 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions for an 81.9 passer rating.

"He's a smart player," Texans head coach Bill O'Brien said. "He's an instinctive player. First game out there, I thought he did some good things. It's a big jump from college to the NFL. I thought he handled it pretty well.

"Probably a couple things we could have done differently. He could have played a little bit better on certain plays, but overall I thought he handled himself pretty well for the first time out."

Watson had a large cheering section as his family traveled to the game from his hometown of Gainesville, Ga. There were a lot of Clemson fans in attendance to root for Watson, who led the Tigers to a BCS national title game victory over Alabama during his final college season.

"It was awesome to be able to have that support and that fan base, especially when I come back around this area," Watson said. "It's good. God works in mysterious ways. My first NFL game was close enough for my family to see me."

The former consensus All-America and Heisman Trophy award finalist was patient when things broke down around him, throwing the football away to avoid interceptions.

"That's one of my goals is to take care of the football," Watson said. "Especially at this level, you can't turn the ball over. That's one of the biggest things we focus on is to protect the ball."

Watson wasn't perfect, but he showed plenty of potential during his first NFL action. He had some misfires and missed reads, but was steady overall.

"A lot of things," Watson said when asked what he needs to improve on. "We'll be able to correct the mistakes and the passes that I missed. It was a good day overall. I did what I needed to do and felt comfortable doing it."

Watson showed off his arm strength on a 65-yard incompletion in the first half. He delivered a perfect throw on a slant to running back Akeem Hunt for a 16-yard completion. His first NFL pass was a six-yard completion to tight end RaShaun Allen.

The touchdown run was his biggest highlight.

"I was just extending the play," Watson said. "That's what coach OB always tell me. If it's there, do what I do. Don't change and try to force anything. Extend the play. I saw a hole and tried to get in the end zone and I did."

Watson completed 8 of 14 passes for 121 yards and an 85.7 passer rating during the first half. He avoided pressure when there were protection breakdowns. He seemed unfazed when penalties were committed. And he wisely got down and broke into a smooth slide to avoid getting hit during a scramble.

"He did what Deshaun does, just go out there and make plays," Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins said.

Watson's improvisational ability is rare, allowing him to adeptly execute play-action passes on the move. And Watson was extremely careful with the football.

Although Savage has already been declared the starter and completed 9 of 11 passes for 69 yards and a 92.8 passer rating, Watson showed flashes that he could be ready to play sooner than expected if called upon this season.

An immediate hit as a starter in the ninth grade in high school, Watson is accustomed to making an impact at each level. On his sixth collegiate snap, he threw a touchdown pass against Georgia to beat an aggressive blitz package designed to fluster him on the road.

Watson was particularly sharp during the third quarter when he completed 6 of 8 passes for 52 yards and a 91.7 passer rating. He connected with Dres Anderson for a 19-yard completion to set up his touchdown run.

"I think he did a great job," Savage said. "He went out there and made some plays."

While Watson didn't pile up a ton of points while working with the Texans' reserves, he did create excitement about the future. His performance will continue to spark conversations around NFL circles about when or if he might be inserted into the starting lineup as a rookie.

"It's a start," Watson said. "I've got to enjoy the process and stay on track and try to get better, find ways to get better. I've got to stay hungry and continue to work."

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