Houston Texans challenging Deshaun Watson with new offense
By Jair Lopez
This upcoming season is the next challenge for Deshaun Watson as the Houston Texans are building a different offense around him.
The Houston Texans know they have something special in quarterback Deshaun Watson ever since they traded up from 25th to 12th overall with the Cleveland Browns to select him. The entire organization was committed to him after the draft capital they gave up to go and get him. However, how great he can be is the question everyone should be asking themselves with the 2020 season only a few months away.
Watson is one of the rare once in a lifetime type of quarterbacks that can change the entire outlook of a franchise hopes of winning a Super Bowl. The Texans have never had a quarterback like Watson up to this point in their franchise’s history. Matt Schaub was the closest thing to success at quarterback, but time showed he was a tier below the elite group in the league like Tom Brady.
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Watson showed he was ready for the biggest stage coming out the gate as a rookie quarterback by going against heavyweight teams like the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots. Watson ended up coming at the short end of both games with the defense unable to close out the game. However, he did his part against the Patriots and almost became the first rookie quarterback to defeat the Patriots in Gillette Stadium since Bill Belichick took over as head coach.
Watson completed 17 out of his 34 passes with one touchdown, an interception, and 40 yards rushing in only his second game as a starter, but Tom Brady came out swinging to take back the lead in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter.
The future first ballot hall of fame quarterback completed 26 of his 39 passes for 276 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception. Funny enough, Brady connected with Texans’ new wide receiver, Brandin Cooks, to torch Houston’s secondary throughout the entire game.
Watson got his next shot of facing the Patriots in last season and he didn’t disappoint as he showed leaps and bounds from his previous encounter. He completed 18 of his 25 passes for 234 yards to three touchdowns and no interceptions. Meanwhile, Brady completed 24 of his 47 passes for 347 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception.
Watching Watson coming away with a victory was a refreshing sight to see with Texans usually getting thrashed by the Patriots. However, there was a clear indication from those two games to show that this was a different team from the previous Houston Texans. This offense and this team could make waves with Watson at quarterback.
Having a quality quarterback is what it all boils down to at the end of the day. There is always going to be an outlier like the Philadelphia Eagles that could win a championship in recent history, but almost every other team will only go as far as their franchise quarterback takes them. Defense and special teams are due their credit, but teams won’t be able to take the next step without the quarterback to take them there. The Texans have that now with Watson, and they will be an interesting team to watch moving forward without All-Pro wideout, DeAndre Hopkins.
Houston Texans offseason changes on offense:
DeAndre Hopkins was everything any quarterback could wish for in a wide receiver, but the argument could be raised he was Watson’s crutch as he was always turned to bail him out. Not every throw to Hopkins was a good throw despite it turning to a completion. Watching film, there were other throws available for Watson to take as check-down throws to his running backs or tight ends, but he was determined with making the big play.
Watson’s biggest issue heading into this season is his ability to extend the play since it can occasionally lead him to take unnecessary hits or turnovers, but it is also his biggest asset as a quarterback. Watson would sometimes not go through all his progressions and look for Hopkins to somehow get open so he could give him the ball. This is no knock on Watson; if your receiver is dominant as Hopkins, you have to provide him with the opportunity to make a play.
However, the analogy that can best be given is the Shaq and Kobe Bryant tandem. We know what great players they were together as a team, but the Lakers took away Shaq being confident in what Kobe could become as the face of the franchise.
Now I know it isn’t the cleanest comparison, but there is no reason why Watson can’t thrive without Hopkins. Saying Texans can’t make the playoffs without Hopkins is not giving Watson the credit he deserves as he is a big part of the Texans’ newfound success.
Texans offense could struggle to integrate all their new pieces, but they showed that trading Hopkins wasn’t out of the heat of the moment. Houston acquired running back David Johnson in the trade that sent Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals to help the offense. Although this isn’t to say it wasn’t a bad trade.
Exchanging a former All-Pro running back and draft compensation for a perennial All-Pro wide receiver is a bad value. However, Hopkins made it known to Greg Bishop of Sports Illustrated that he wanted out of the Texans, and he asked for a pay raise to expedite his exit.
Acquiring Johnson is one of the best moves the Texans could have done to help Watson at the running back position with Carlos Hyde deciding to turn down the deal the Texans offered him. Johnson is a dual-threat at running back being able to contribute in the run game and be a receiver out of the backfield.
Johnson is a legitimate threat to be the most talented running back in franchise history only behind Arian Foster. Combining David with Duke Johnson is a nightmare for opposing defenses and a blessing in disguise for Watson.
Duke and David are both threats as runners and receivers that will open the offense for Watson to operate. Not to forget the Texans also added Randall Cobb and Cooks as wide receivers. Putting his health issues aside, Cooks is one of the better young deep threat receivers in the league. Cooks has only missed two games in the last three years and has four seasons of going over 1,000 receiving yards in his six seasons in the NFL.
Meanwhile, Cobb is a great addition as the slot receiver for the offense. Texans need a slot receiver more than ever as they plan to distribute their targets with Hopkins no longer in the picture to shoulder all the load.
The Texans have slowly but surely built a different and more diverse offense for Watson to operate. The offense isn’t trying to replace Hopkins with the moves they made. They’re trying to evolve it into a different offense, and it will certainly be interesting to see Watson handle this change moving forward.