By Brien O’Donal
As the Texans get set to play the Patriots tomorrow in NRG Stadium at 7 p.m. I felt I should give a public service announcement that will hopefully provide a sense of calm before the overreactions begin. It’s the preseason and there is a certain player on the roster that everyone is over the moon about. You already know who I’m talking about. Deshaun Watson; the belle of the training camp ball.
It’s been mentioned before that these preseason games are mostly played by bottom of the roster guys who wouldn’t be the regular season starters. The schemes that will be coached will be pretty basic as well. None of that is a knock on the talent those men possess; but in truth, better talent and more complex schemes will be on the field in the regular season. It was that way in the first game against the Panthers, but somehow over excitement still got the better of some folks.
If you’re going to get excited for Watson’s play on the field, or any of the Texans for that matter; I’ll give you a few tips on what to look for. When I watch a preseason game I am not looking at the scoreboard because it’s meaningless. I look for the one-on-one battles that can earn someone more playing time, or if they are on the bubble; a roster spot. I look for good solid fundamentals and execution of the game plan.
You can see these play out at every roster position but for Texans fans, they want to see Watson the most. So if you want to determine if a quarterback playing against back ups and a vanilla defense is doing as well as he looks; let’s consider what skills he should demonstrate that we as viewers can detect.
- Pocket presence–This is the ability of the quarterback to stand tall in the pocket and make his reads. The most elite at the position don’t overreact to pressure and keep their eyes downfield as the play develops. In the first game Watson showed that he can do this but there is still room for growth. On several plays he left the pocket completely instead of moving within it. By rolling out too soon he cuts the field in half before the receivers have time to get open. In the second game, watch how often he does this and the outcome it creates.
- Accuracy–This speaks for itself. When he throws the ball downfield, is it thrown to a spot where only his guy can catch it? He looked good last week but there is still room for improvement in the next few weeks.
- Timing–Does he get the ball to his receiver as soon as he is open and in a place where he will have room to break away and get yards after the catch? This is important because hitting the receiver with a ball that leads can make a route better than its design. Once gain, Watson made some good throws in the first game but not every throw was where it needed to be.
- Vision–This is the broadest skill I look for when I determine if the guy has it or not. If a quarterback is going to keep the ball moving down the field he has to be able to see all of it from start to finish every play. It’s not always about the first read or even the second. Before the pressure of the defense gets to him, he needs to have the ball out of his hand and into those of his best option for the most yards. That happens in a matter of seconds. From all reports, the studying that Watson has done should help him diagnose the coverage before the snap. The next step is to make sure he can see it all develop in those next few seconds. You can tell how he’s doing by how well he gets the ball to the open receivers, how quickly he gets it to them, and how much room they have to run afterward. Vision is the skill that ties in all the others.
I know not everyone wants to spend time watching fundamentals, but if you really want to know what the roster might look like on week 1 maybe you should. It’s the preseason so there is no reason to worry about the score just the results of each play. It’s fun to see the individual performances and guess who will be playing in the regular season. With the Texans and the quarterback position; it really is anyone’s guess who will be the starter. Knowing what to look for can make you a little more savvy about how the play on the field should look, but also keep you from getting to excited about one splash play.