Deshaun Watson's push for the Houston Texans' starting quarterback job is on, even if the first-round rookie from Clemson has ground to make up as he chases Tom Savage.
Watson showed flashes of his playmaking potential in his preseason debut Wednesday, completing 15 of 25 passes for 175 yards along with 24 rushing yards and a touchdown in two and a half quarters of work against the Carolina Panthers.
“I have to watch the tape, but I thought moving the ball there were some good things,” Texans coach Bill O’Brien said in a postgame news conference. “He’s a smart player. He’s an instinctive player. His first game out there I thought he did some good things. It’s a big jump. It’s a big jump from college to the NFL, and I thought he handled it pretty well.”
While showing composure as a pocket passer, Watson also frequently extended plays and provided a new dynamic for the Texans' offense. On a third-quarter drive, Watson capped a 15-play, 75-yard march by scrambling up the middle for a 15-yard touchdown.
But the No. 12 overall pick also experienced a handful of bumps on the night, as the penalty-plagued offense scored on just two his eight drives.
"It was a good day overall," Watson said in a postgame news conference. "I did what I had to do and felt comfortable doing it."
Watson went three-and-out on his first two drives, and his third ended when tight end Evan Baylis fumbled after hauling in a pass that would have resulted in a first down. He led the Texans inside the Panthers' 10 yard-line, but Houston had to settle for a field goal after he couldn't find an open receiver on second and third down.
Savage completed 9 of 11 passes for 69 yards before giving way to Watson after one quarter. His first drive resulted in a three-and-out when he took a sack on third down, but he rebounded to lead Houston on a 13-play, 75-yard drive capped by Alfred Blue's 16-yard touchdown run.
Meanwhile, Panthers rookie running back Christian McCaffrey had 33 rushing yards on seven carries.