Houston Texans: Evaluating quarterback group outside of Deshaun Watson

The Houston Texans have an interesting core of quarterbacks heading into the 2020 NFL season.

The Houston Texans are in the virtual portion of their offseason program, but that won’t stop them from evaluating the quarterbacks they have for this upcoming season. Deshaun Watson is the incumbent starter, and rightfully so as one of rising quarterbacks in the league heading into his fourth season. However, there is an interesting trio of quarterbacks behind Watson that deserve some spotlight of their own.

A.J. McCarron is locked in as the second quarterback on the depth chart after resigning to a one year deal worth $4 million with $3.75 million guaranteed; McCarron is projected to be the first quarterback to repeat as the backup signal-caller for Watson.

Outside of Watson’s short rookie season that ended due to an ACL injury. Brandon Weeden and Joe Webb were the second and third options for the 2018 season. However,  turnover at the position occurred once more, with Weeden’s deal expiring and Webb missing the entire season due to foot injury in 2019. McCarron became the sole backup quarterback on the roster for the majority of last season.

As the backup, he demonstrated the capability of operating the offense in Week 17 against the Tennessee Titans, with the majority of the starters resting for the postseason. McCarron played well against the Titans’ first defense by only turning the football over once, and throwing for 225 passing yards with a vanilla game plan.

Texans also signed Alex McGough to their practice squad towards the start of the 2019 regular season after the Jacksonville Jaguars waived him. McGough was a player the Texans had their sights on through the 2018 draft process when they brought him in for a private workout.

McGough ended up going to the Seattle Seahawks in the seventh round of the draft and spent his first year on their practice squad. He was waived by the Seahawks and signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars to take part in their training camp and preseason. However, McGough was part of the Jaguars’ roster cutdowns before the start of the 2019 season.

McGough reunited with Seahawks’ former quarterback coach Carl Smith in Houston as the Texans brought McGough in after Smith was hired as part of their coaching staff. Texans demonstrated sufficient interest in McGough throughout the season by promoting him to the active roster after the Jaguars came knocking on the door in an attempt to bring him back after Nick Foles’ collarbone injury.

The Texans kept their eyes on McGough despite sending him back to the practice squad a few weeks later, and he was part of the group of players that re-signed to a future/reserve contract. McGough has yet to see any regular-season action since entering the league in 2018, and likely won’t be seeing any action anytime soon in Houston as a backup.

However, McGough is entering his second year in the Texans offense, and it will be interesting to see how he fares if the NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, allows teams to have preseason games. It is a reality that that Texans are contemplating to bring a third quarterback on the roster, and it could be coming down between McGough and Tiano.

Nick Tiano is another quarterback that shouldn’t be an afterthought with the Texans keeping close tabs on him through the draft process. Tiano was one of the many prospects indirectly affected by the pandemic as his pro day was canceled. However, Tiano demonstrated his talent on the NFLPA Bowl game earning the MVP trophy as he led the team to victory.

Tiano finished his two and half seasons as a starter in the University of Chatanooga with completing 494 of his 865 passes attempted for 5,830 yards, 35 touchdowns, and 22 interceptions.

At 6’4, Tiano has the athleticism that bigger quarterbacks normally lack to make plays on the move. He finished his stint with his hometown college team with ten rushing touchdowns, including nine in his senior season. Tiano also has the arm strength that NFL evaluators covet from their quarterbacks to make the throws at the next level.

Outside of his physical gifts, Tiano learned and operated in a pro-style system in UTC, where he had control of the offense. Like any rookie quarterback, Tiano faces a learning curve acclimating to the NFL, but he has an opportunity not too many players have in learning from two great college quarterbacks in Watson and McCarron.

Whether the front office decides to bring McCarron back to a third deal after this season, the Texans have two intriguing options on the roster to develop in McGough and Tiano for the next few years. It is important to have talent and continuity at the backup spot, in case anything were to happen to the starting quarterback.

Having no long term solution at backup quarterback could be a problem. Stability beyond the starting spot is essential across every position on an NFL roster.

Next: Intriguing second year players from 2019 NFL Draft

Both McGough and Tiano are quarterbacks the Houston Texans could have waiting in the fold to be the backups down the road if McCarron finds a better opportunity next season outside of Houston.

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