Getting injured will help, not hurt Deshaun Watson
By Peter Manfre
Houston Texans franchise quarterback and rookie Deshaun Watson will spend the remainder of the season on the sidelines after tearing his ACL. The time spent off the field will help his development more than it will hurt it.
Houston Texans’ rookie Deshaun Watson was a top-five quarterback in the NFL this season before his injury. That is a fact. Yes- it was a brief six-game stint, but the dude can ball. His three losses came against the New England Patriots in Foxborough, Seattle Seahawks in Seattle and a home Sunday night football loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. All three teams will make the playoffs this season. All three losses were within one score.
Watson was the key reason for that.
He broke Kurt Warner’s record of 18 passing touchdowns in his first six starts, with 19. He scored a total of 21 touchdowns in that span. Starting with this incredible, Michael Vick-esque run on Monday night football-his first career rushing touchdown.
Watson already proved he has all the talent in the world physically to dominate in this league. He has already proven to be worthy of the draft day gamble that the Texans took by trading up for him. The biggest challenges that he now faces are how he will adjust to defenses adjusting to him, along with his rehab.
Watson got his feet more than wet this season. He got to play in some of the toughest places to play, against the best of the best. He rose to the occasion time and time again. His biggest issue before the injury was the mental aspect of the game.
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The Texans offense was simplified to aid Watson as a rookie and create good match-ups for him.
Texans’ head coach Bill O’Brien and his staff did a great job of designing plays for Watson to be one-read plays. He will need to work on the complexity of the offense to really become unstoppable.
Examples of these plays are the utilization of the speed of the Texans’ offensive skilled players pre-snap. Houston would often line up in the pistol or shotgun formation and have a wide reciver or running back come sprinting towards the middle of the alignment from the outside. This would help Watson differentiate between zone and man coverage off the bat.
Opposing defenses can still disguise these looks, but in the heat of the moment, most defenses will show their hand.
Once the ball is snapped, the defenders have to read even more information. At this point Watson is already in control. The linebackers are the biggest victims of these reads. They have to watch the man in motion in case of a screen. They have to watch for a potential run play from the man in motion or they have to look out for the play action.
The last thing that they have to process? Watson’s mobility.
This creates uncertainty in the defense, or at the very worst: play-processing time. Either way, it aids Watson.
A deeper look at the advanced movement of a one-read throw the Texans employ.
The best part about starting plays this way and using this scheme? Most of the time they are set with quick and decisive one-read throws. They are just dressed up nicer than a Christmas ham.
Take a look at what Matt Bowen, a former NFL player, had to say about these schemes.
This route development is designed to destroy Cover 3 defenses like the Seahawks’. It is plays like these that led to Watson’s gaudy numbers. The defender’s time-to-react was nullified by the chaos going on behind the line of scrimmage.
A large part of that should be credited to Watson’s mobility and O’Brien’s creativity.
The Philadelphia Eagles are doing a similar thing with Carson Wentz. In the video above, the Eagles use a pre-snap alignment to isolate Alshon Jefferey out wide. Then with the threat of play action and a zone-read, the safety bites. This left Jefferey one-on-one and an easy throw for Wentz.
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There is no shame in the one-read throw to help aid a young quarterback’s development. There is no shame in using these type of plays five to ten times a game. Eventually however, things need to get a bit trickier in order to really keep keep defenses on their toes.
The Texans will have to turn one-read throws into option throws to reach full potential.
This is where things get tricky. Teams will undoubtedly pick up on these one-read throws throughout the season and jump the routes. Even if they do not jump them, they will recognize them quicker. This will lead to busted plays and put Watson at a disadvantage.
How do you counteract that?
By implementing a more complex system to utilize the entire field and have a system with full reads. The Texans and O’Brien have implemented this in certain formations. Most notably, their pistol and single back formations.
Since being injured, Watson will be able to work on his own and take his time to learn the offensive system. He will not be able to do the physical reps, but will have the mental rep time needed to fully grasp the system.
Drew Dougherty, of the Texans’ official website, said that Watson is getting the game plan every night.
Watson is a budding superstar and has already brought Texans’ fans from their somber slumbers into the ascendancy of possibilities on offense. Possibilities that, if he fails to move forward in the play book, could keep Watson from reaching the level of stardom he has teased everyone with.