Deshaun Watson beat the best in college, now he’s turning his attention to the best in the NFL.
The rookie will make his second start for the Texans as they head to New England to face off with the Patriots on Sunday afternoon. Houston won in Watson’s only other start, beating the Cincinnati Bengals 13-9 last Thursday night.
“Honestly, I just kind of do my job,” Watson said. “The coaches are going to prepare you to get the job done and win the game. So, for me right now, every team I play against is a giant because it’s new to me. I’m still learning as I go through the days and the snaps.”
Watson was solid in his first start for the Texans, completing 62 percent of his passes for 125 yards and running for 67 yards, including a highlight-reel 47-yard scamper that was the longest touchdown run by a Houston quarterback in franchise history.
He was much more of a passing threat in college, eclipsing the 4,000-yard mark and throwing double-digit touchdowns in his final two years at Clemson while also running for 21 total touchdowns over that span.
But the growing pains are more evident in the NFL as he threw one interception and one touchdown when he came in during the second half of the Week 1 loss to Jacksonville.
“I’ve never seen a change in his personality,” head coach Bill O’Brien said. “He’s the same guy every day. He’s calm. He’s got a really good demeanor about him. He’s flat line, he’s not up and down. What you see every single day is what you see out on the field.”
Watson had a stable of receivers at Clemson that he got used to. He hasn’t had that in Houston.
DeAndre Hopkins is one of the most consistent receivers in the league and has been an early favorite for Watson. He had seven catches in each of the first two weeks of the season and his only touchdown came from Watson.
But other than Hopkins, the Texans have had a rotating cast of receivers.
Will Fuller was injured during preseason and won’t be available for the game on Sunday. Bruce Ellington was signed before the season started and was injured in the last game against the Bengals. Three Houston tight ends missed time with concussions after Week 1.
“Everybody in the league is dealing with injuries,” O’Brien said. “Maybe we’re dealing with a few more than some other teams, but I thought the way that we went out last game and the way that we used seven linemen at times, obviously, we threw the ball.”
Watson has impressed the coaches with his ability to stay calm, and it’s their responsibility to draw something up that the rookie can execute.
Quarterbacks coach Sean Ryan said Watson is able to communicate what he's thinking very clearly and what he expects from a defense before he goes into. Whether it was a good series or not, he can come up with solutions quickly.
“I think having that confidence and him being calm and being able to stand in there and see the field, see the coverage, and let it play out and push the ball down the field, I think that happens with time,” Ryan said. “I think you help a young quarterback at times by getting the ball out of his hand quickly with different schemes.”
The Patriots and Texans have been linked since O’Brien, a former New England offensive coordinator, took over as head coach in Houston in 2014. The teams had a join practice in West Virginia ahead of their preseason game this year.
Watson is very open about his goals and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is one of the players he models himself after most. Brady reciprocated those remarks and said the rookie has all the talent to be great.
As he has shown when the lights were brightest in college, Watson knows how to put on a show.
“It’s a great opportunity for not just me, but the whole team and this organization,” Watson said. “For us to go up there and try to get a win, it’s going to be tough but it’s going to be a great challenge for us and we’re up for it.”