In the second volume of Watson Watch, I take a look at Watson's next and final three games in 2017 against the Chiefs, Browns and Seahawks. Watson showed tons of promise in these games, throwing a ridiculous 12 TDs in total. He was on pace to break numerous rookie records but it all unfortunately had to come to a pause. It was a crazy fun rookie season though, and will be interesting to look at how much he improves from it.
Watson Watch - Volume 2: 2017 Weeks 5-7
Week 5: Vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Hot off two of his best games, Watson had another ridiculous day throwing the ball. He finished 16/31 for 261 yards, 5 TDs, and 0 INTs. This was one of those games where we felt like we were always in it, until the bitter end. Watson gave us that hope that somehow, someway, we would come back and steal the win. We wouldn't that day, but his ability to keep up with one of the top teams in the league was a spectacle to watch.
His day wasn't all perfect, a completion percentage of 52% illustrates that, and I want to get one of his bad plays out the way first. This throw is peak "stare down Hopkins". It's play action and Hopkins is running an out route at the bottom of the screen. Look how quick Watson is to pull back the play action fake, and quickly turn his head to look for Nuk. He never looks in another direction and throws it despite two defenders in good position. Nuk doesn't run a great route either, rounding off the out route instead of cutting sharply. Watson staring down Nuk and force feeding him will be a likely theme of this series, and something that will vanish in 2020.
Alright, now onto the highlight plays! Watson's first TD was on a slant to Nuk. They go into a heavy formation and isolate Nuk to the left. After the play action fake, Nuk isn't really open because of the second defender. But watch the end zone view to get a great sense of how Watson throws Nuk open. It's perfect ball placement away from the defender and he gives Nuk enough space to get his feet in bounds. These slants on the goal line became a staple for Watson and Nuk. I'm sure we'll be seeing it much more throughout this series.
This was the play of the game, and maybe Watson's play of his rookie year. The end zone view of this one is amazing yet again. As he hits the top of his drop, there's instantly a defender in his face. He jump cuts him to the left, and switches the hand he was holding the ball in. He gets himself situated and launches a bomb to Fuller for the TD. Just your typical Watson magic in the pocket.
Another TD came late in the fourth, trying to claw our way back into the game. Watson knows we need something deep and he loads up, and launches a bomb to Nuk in the end zone. Watson gets so much power on this ball because of how he twists his hip and uses that as an energy transfer. Not all your power comes from your arm, most of it should come from your base. Watson puts it up high for Nuk to snatch it out of the air. This late TD gave us hope, but it wasn't enough. We scored another TD in the dying seconds but the defense just gave up too many points. Another reoccurring theme for Watson to deal with.
Week 6: Vs. Cleveland Browns
Watson would continue his ridiculous play against the Browns, finishing 17/29 for 225 yards, 3 TDs and 1 INT. The game never felt close and was one of those times that you could just kick back, relax, and enjoy.
This game against the Browns would turn out to be an extremely pivotal game for Watson's career. There was more to take from this game, than the last three shootouts Watson was a part of. And that's simply because you can learn more from your mistakes than your successes. This was the first game that Watson consistently saw a nickel blitz, all game long. The Browns DC was relentless in sending it, because he saw that Watson struggled to read it. It was the one thing that could slow him down.
Watch this play, and how nickel CB Boddy-Calhoun (#20) comes unblocked and attacks Watson. This forces him to step up in the pocket, messes with his mechanics, and forces an errant throw. TE Ryan Griffen was wide open due to this blitz, but because Watson got sped up, he couldn't get it to him accurately. The Browns saw this chink in the armor, and kept on prodding. They continued to send the blitz and while I want to look at other aspects of the game, just know that it caused Watson to struggle. Keep that in mind throughout this series, and see how Watson does, or doesn't adjust to it.
On to the next play, and man, was it perfect. Fuller is running a modified corner route at the top of the screen. Watson reads that the Browns are in Cover 2 and Fuller's corner route perfectly attacks the hole in the zone below the safety and above the CB. He throws it up as he gets hit from the left, and gets the ball to Fuller right in stride. TOUCHDOWN!
I wanted to break down this next play because it shows a really underrated quality as a QB, setting your feet. You get a great view from the end zone angle. On this play action fake, as Watson turns his heaad around he sees a blitzing CB coming towards him. He knows he doesn't have that much time and look how he flips his hips and plants his feet so smoothly, to get into good position to make a throw. He makes it look easy but I promise you, it's not. To get square and on balance that quickly is awesome. TE Stephen Anderson get's an easy 9 yards as a result.
This next play is a perfect example of why QB's need good footwork and base. When Watson rolls out he doesn't take his time to set his feet very well, and ends up with both feet off the ground, This leaves him unbalanced and doesn't allow him to transfer power from his base to the throw. Therefore, he uses his arm too much to overcompensate, and ends up overthrowing this. The result of these poor mechanics? A pick-six. Watson is one of the best QB's throwing on the run, but it's important to look at what makes him so great. He becomes much more consistent with little things like this.
All in all it was a really fun game. The defense balled out and Watson made numerous plays. He didn't have to do anything spectacular as other aspects of the team were working so well. It's nice to see a game where Watson wasn't completely carrying us. Onto the next game!
Week 7: Vs. Seattle Seahawks
This had to be one of the most fun games in Deshaun's stellar rookie campaign. It was a back and forth high scoring affair and Watson was determined not to lose. He put on a show, and we should've won this game. He finished 19/30 for 402 yards, 4 TDs and 3 INTs. While the INTs seem bad, we were in this game until the bitter end, when the defense lost it for us. Deshaun did all he could.
It wouldn't be fair to start this game off with any other play than this one. It was such an amazing moment and set the tone for the game. Watson came out slinging it and he wasn't scared of anyone, not even the Legion of Boom. Fuller burns everyone in sight and D4 gives him a great ball out in front of him so that he can run under it. Earl Thomas stood no chance. He hesitated for a split second and boom, Fuller was gone. The margin for error when trying to defend Fuller is zero, there is none, you have to be perfect. PLEASE STAY HEALTHY
The next play I want to look at is this nice deep crossing route to Hopkins. Watson is patient in the pocket and doesn't get spooked out. He waits for Fuller to be covered and Hopkins to come open, and finds him with a great ball. He leaves it slightly inside, so that Nuk has just enough space to toe tap.
This was a great throw for the Touchdown. At first, it looks like the Texans are running our patented Yankee concept, where Nuk and Fuller run deep crossing routes off of play action. And that's what it is, but Fuller has an option route, and he sees that Sherman is reading this play, and is ready for Fuller to run the crossing route. So instead of doing so, he cuts off the route and turns it into a corner route, using Sherman's aggressiveness against him. Watson sees the same thing and slings it to Fuller perfectly, high and away from Sherman.
Now here is the actual Yankee concept, where Fuller and Hopkins do run the deep crossers. This is such a tough play to cover with Fuller's speed normally, but if you have in the back of your mind, the thought that he can change the route at any given moment, that's got to screw you up as a defender. That's the premise of BOB's "complicated" offense. With all the built in option routes, the defense could see the same formation and same routes, but the offense can change it up at the last second. Everyone has to be on the same page, but it's potential is ridiculous. Nonetheless, because of all the thinking the CB has to do, it helps Fuller get a step on him, and that's all it takes. Beautiful throw on the rollout and D4 sneaks the ball in so that Fuller has enough space to stay in bounds.
Yet another unbelievable play here. Just your everyday magical Watson avoiding a sack. He gets tackled by the leg but twists enough to get a throw off while falling to the ground, finding a wide open Lamar Miller in the end zone. While the defense was giving up touchdown after touchdown, Watson did everything he could to will us back into the game. He wouldn't give up. Nothing could stop him.
The last touchdown of the day came on a simple screen pass. While Watson got it to him, it was Hopkins who did all the work. Making numerous defenders miss and forcing Earl Thomas to pull his hammy. I was shocked, first of all that a WR screen got completed. Then I was shocked that it went for positive yards. Then I was even more shocked that it went for a TOUCHDOWN?! With Deshaun Watson at the helm, I've got to get used to being shocked.
We all know how the game ended, it was awful and excruciating to watch. Another W right in our grasp, stolen due to a pitiful defense. Watson deserved better. As a rookie he went into Seattle and put on a show. Yet had nothing to show for it.
After the game it only got worse. The next practice it was reported that Watson had tore his ACL and would be done for the season. I was devastated, I'm sure you were too. It was back to the Tom Savage show, and that meant football was meaningless. We were teased with the highlight reel that is Deshaun Watson. The 50 yard TD run, the deep bombs to Fuller, the clutch receptions to Nuk. It was amazing, but it had to be put on hold. Watson was en route to breaking all sort of rookie QB records, but that too was stolen from him. That's fine though, rookie records are fairly meaningless. A ring is Watson's ultimate goal, and he'll have a long and prosperous career to achieve that.
Watson's 2017 was a wild ride. We saw early that he wasn't a perfect QB, and throughout the season struggled to make reads, stand strong in the pocket, and not throw INTs. I'm not trying to dog on Watson, but actually show how much he's grown. He improved a lot in just 7 games as a rookie. He improves much more in 2018 and 2019. Stay tuned for those next volumes of Watson Watch.