Ones to Watch in AFC South: Deshaun Watson

Ones to Watch in AFC South: Deshaun Watson
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I know what you are thinking. ‘How original picking one of the most exciting quarterbacks in football as one to watch.’ My reasoning for picking Deshaun Watson as one to watch in the AFC South is slightly different. Yes Watson looked great last season and was a lot of fun to watch but in seven games and six starts it is easy for someone to shine. However, there will be some serious questions surrounding Watson in year two.

Can he handle the pressure?

Coming in last season was a no lose situation for Watson. Tom Savage had been so bad to start the season that Houston fans just wanted to see promise. However, Watson shone from the outset with 19 passing touchdowns, 1,699 passing yards and two rushing touchdowns in those seven appearances. This season things will be different. Having flashed those moments of brilliance Houston fans are buzzing and will expect their team to show signs of improvement and perhaps even get close to the playoffs. That is a ton of pressure for a QB with just six starts under his belt. Whether Watson can handle that pressure will go a long way towards knowing what kind of career he could have.

Statistical regression?

Watson’s touchdown and passing yard numbers were certainly impressive but replicating them may be difficult. The rushing stats may take a hit because of the knee injury, but I still expect Watson to use his feet so that shouldn’t be an issue. However, the passing stats may be slightly more difficult to repeat. Using pro football reference‘s various indexes for passing metrics where 100 is average and anything above is better we can get an idea for why Watson’s stats may be an anomaly. His yards per attempt index was 127 and his touchdown percentage index was a whopping 161 to give him a net passer rating index of 120. However, he did that while returning an interception percentage index of 73 and a sack percentage index of 80. Now Watson seems like that kind of all or nothing player but to keep putting up good offensive number while constantly under pressure and performing below average in interceptions is tough.

A 161 touchdown percentage index will be close to impossible to repeat and the 127 yards per attempt index may also be. However, what concerns me is that while I see those regressing I have my fears that we do not see positive regression in the sack and interception index. The reason for this is because of how scary that Texans offensive line is. There is very little on the line that fills you with great confidence. Therefore, I expect Watson to be under a lot of pressure in the pocket and with pressure often comes mistakes.

Can teams figure him out?

When you come in as a rookie and perform well it is incredibly hard for teams to catch up to you. Early in your career there is very minimal game tape of you in your pro teams system for defensive coordinators to study. In addition, there is not a huge amount of time in season for them to study and make adjustments. However, when you enter your second season that is no longer an issue, as teams have had a whole offseason to watch tape and find your flaws. Of course I fully expect the offensively minded Bill O’Brien to have some new elements to his offense which coordinators will have not seen but it is unlikely he revamps the whole offense. Therefore, there will be recognition on some plays for defenders which will make Watson’s job much harder.

The final word

Whatever happens this season Deshaun Watson is going to be a ton of fun to watch. He is an exciting play maker who is not afraid to go for it. The game against Seattle last year highlighted that better than ever. We may get a little preview of what we might expect from Watson in week one, when he faces the Patriots. Bill Belichick is well known for game planning and adjusting and the Patriots saw Watson in one of six games last year. If Watson has a good game there then maybe we are in for a season of fun. Have a tough game and while we will give him a pass as it is Belichick and the Patriots there will still be some whispering of sophomore slump. However, even if Watson struggles out of the gate is will be fascinating to see how he adjust as the season progresses.

To read more about what we might expect from Watson and the Texans this season you can read what my colleague Ryan Conway thinks here.

Photo copyright: Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

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