Watson Watch returns with volume three kicking off the 2018 season. Volumes one and two looked at Deshaun Watson's 7 game rookie season. We saw how he started off shaky (as expected), but started to put on a show, and was on pace to break numerous records. Unfortunately the injury slowed that parade, and Watson was forced to miss the rest of the season. Sitting out games allowed him to watch more film, get more comfortable with the offense, and have a better understanding of NFL defenses. His sophomore campaign would be filled with highlights, and the growth he made from his rookie season cannot be understated. Let's dive into the season!
Watson Watch - Volume 3: 2018 Weeks 1-4
Week 1: VS. New England Patriots
When it was announced that we'd play the Patriots in Week One, I have to admit I wasn't happy. But it was a chance to show the world what we were about. Unfortunately, that wouldn't be the case. Watson didn't play his best game, and was rusty with his reads, decision making and accuracy. He finished the game 17/34 for 176 yards 1 TD and 1 INT. Definitely not his best game, but it happens. Let's dive into the tape and see what went wrong.
The Patriots defense was swarming all day long. The pass rush was revved up and the coverage was tight as well. Watson takes a sack here on 3rd down, that he could've avoided. He has Jordan Akins open underneath early but clearly wants more. It takes too long for anyone else to get open, and the pass rush is already breathing down his neck. Watson can't do anything as both of our tackles get demolished.
This next play was not a great INT from Watson. He had Hopkins coming open if he could laser the ball before the safety got there, which we've seen him do time and time again. But instead he goes for the big play and tosses it up to a WR that is pretty covered by a CB, and has a Safety running towards him. The WR doesn't do him any favor but this just isn't a great decision by Watson.
Watson's struggles continued throughout the game, and on a crucial 4th down in the Patriots red zone, he had a chance to redeem himself. He has TE Ryan Griffen wide open running a post route over the middle of the field. He sees it, throws it, but is badly off target. This should've been a touchdown and would've been game changing. But instead the momentum and life was sucked out of the Texans and it was hard to recover. Every QB has bad throws, it happens, it just wasn't Watson's day. We've seen him make these easy throws, he must've just been rusty as it was the first game of the season.
It wasn't all bad from Watson, he did have a nice TD to Bruce Ellington. He quickly finds him on the slant route and gave the Texans life. Ryan Griffen runs a good route to alter the path of the CB guarding Ellington, giving him tons of space for the throw. Running more rub routes like these will be paramount for the offense, and especially in the red zone, without Nuk.
The Texans fell short that day, and while it definitely wasn't all on Watson, being realistic, he could've had a better day. We only lost by 7, so if he could've made just a couple more throws that he regularly does, we could've beat the vaunted Patriots.
Week 2: Vs. Tennessee Titans
The Texans looked to rebound against the Titans, but as we know, unfortunately came up short, losing 20-17. Deshaun had a great day statistically, but his performance was a bit up and down. He finished 22/32 for 310 yards, 2 TDs, and 1 INT. Let's dive into the film.
If you read last volume, you know that the Cleveland Browns started nickel blitzing Deshaun, and now the Titans have caught on. They got to Deshaun a lot with it, and he honestly struggled to diagnose it. On this play Logan Ryan doesn't even do a great job disguising the blitz, but Deshaun doesn't even look his way and allows the free runner. This completely blows up the play and he has no chance. But he should have slide the protection to the left to pick up Ryan. This is something he's gotten better about over the years, but still needs improvement.
I want to make a point of analyzing Deshaun Watson's interceptions. Looking at his mistakes and seeing if he continues to make them, or cuts them out of his game. This INT isn't a horrible decision, at the time that he throws the ball, Hopkins is past the Safety, and has a step on the CB too. The throw has to be perfect for this to work, but we've seen Deshaun do so before. He needs to place the ball high and slightly inside. The ball is a bit outside, and CB Adoree Jackson shows great vertical to attack the ball before D Hop, and come down with the INT. Deshaun has the utmost confidence in his game, and I love his attitude to go for the big play, but this had to be a perfect ball to get through, it just wasn't this time.
While Deshaun started off a bit rocky, he got into rhythm and started making PLAYS. I love this throw on the run by him. Pressure bursts through the OL from the left side, which forces Deshaun out of the pocket. He starts running and instead of just putting his head down to scramble, he is always looking downfield for the throw. He finds Hop coming open across the middle of the field and does a great job keeping his shoulders squared and hips pointed towards the target. Nice throw to hit Nuk in stride and I don't know why he fell, he could've had more YAC, but oh well.
This is a ridiculous play by Watson. He scans the field but doesn't find anything he really likes. From the end zone view you can see him looking to his right, but then as pressure comes from his left, he somehow sees it in the corner of his eye, and side steps it. Now out of the pocket, again Deshaun doesn't look to instantly scramble. He is patient and waits for someone to get open. Eventually Nuk comes open across the middle of the field, similar to last play. Deshaun finds him and instead of falling down, he keeps running and finds himself in the end zone. Deshaun's ability to make off script plays is such an elite talent.
Deshaun just kept on dealing, and his second touchdown was a beauty. With just a three man rush, Watson can take his time and make his reads. He doesn't like anything underneath and sees that Fuller has a couple steps on his defender. He lets it rip and delivers a perfect throw where Fuller can run underneath it, and secure the touchdown. Great ball placement and he makes it look so easy, but it's not. These types of throws are Watson's bread and butter, can't wait to see this more with Fuller and Cooks too.
Unfortunately the Texans came up short, as they allowed the Titans to kick a FG and go up 3 points, eventually winning them the game. Watson and the offense had one last drive but with only 1 minute left, and a full field to drive, we couldn't get it done. It was a tough loss to take against a division opponent, but next week against the Giants couldn't go wrong, right?
Week 3: Vs. New York Giants
With two close losses it was time to right the ship and stop this drought. The Giants were seen as an easy win, but this game showed that on any given day, any NFL team can beat any NFL team. Watson put up NUMBERS, but it wasn't enough. He finished 24/40 for 385 yards, 2 TDs and 1 INT. Let's dive into the film.
This first play is a perfect example of Deshaun trying to do too much, holding onto the ball for too long, and not just hitting his check down. It's 3rd and 9 and as Deshaun hits the top of his drop, he doesn't like anything. He runs out of his pocket to the right, trying to buy time for someone to get open. But he has RB Lamar Miller open in the flat. If he dumps it off to him, he only has to beat one defender to get the first down.But instead he holds onto the ball, looking for something downfield to secure the first. I understand his logic, but what I don't understand is why he didn't just eventually throw it away. As nothing was open and defenders were collapsing on him, he could've just chucked it out of bounds and not lost any yardage. But instead he takes an unnecessary sack. Cutting these out will be pivotal for his development, and the success of the offense.
One of Watson's best throws of the game was this great ball up the seam to Ryan Griffen. The Texans run 4 verticals and with the Giants in Cover 2, someone is going to be open. Deshaun knows this and is staring down the right side of the field, to see who is target will be. Griffen gets behind the LB and Watson puts the ball in perfect position, over the LB and in front of the Safety. This was a DIME and the seams are an area of the field I want us to attack more. Running verticals with Jordan Akins will be even more successful than with Griffen.
The main culprit of this loss was the red zone offense in my opinion. Constantly settling for FGs instead of TDs was a killer. But Deshaun's INT in the red zone was a back breaker. When in the red zone it's a lot harder on the QB as they have to read the defense and go through their progressions a lot quicker. On this play Deshaun wants to go to his left to find Nuk who is coming open on an out route. But with the pressure in his face he is forced to escape to the right of the pocket. He sees Lamar Miller running down the sideline with a LB on him. He decides to trust Lamar this time, and throw it up. Miller has a step, but the ball is a bit under thrown and the size advantage the LB has comes up big time. He makes a great play to pick this off and take points off the board.
The Texans tried to fight back into the game but the defense couldn't hold up, and it was too much. Deshaun finished the game with a TD in the last 10 seconds. It was your typical magical Deshaun TD, as he scrambles out right and then left, before finally finding Miller in the end zone. I love how Miller stopped running to the left, and instead went right. Deshaun turns his shoulders around and gets somewhat square to his target. These off script plays will result in TDs often, but there's those occasional times (like last play) where it ends in a turnover. Deshaun is a gunslinger and big play guy by nature, in my opinion, we will have to deal with the occasional valley, if we are to enjoy the peaks as well.
Starting the season 0-1 to the Patriots was no worry. Losing to the Titans to go 0-2 hurt, but it wasn't the end of the world. But going 0-3 by the hands of the Giants felt like we should just pack up the season and tank. It would be so easy for the players to call it quits and stop trying. Fans called for BOBs head, but no firing came. Instead, the troops were rallied and a legendary win streak began.
Week 4: Vs. Indianapolis Colts
Thank god for it because losing this game would've HURT. Not only because it's the Colts, (f*ck the Colts) but there's such a small percentage of teams that start 0-4 and make it to the playoffs. In fact, there is only one team in the history of the NFL to ever do this, the 1992 Chargers. Luckily, Deshaun led the way and wouldn't let us fall to this statistical minority. He finished the game 29/42 for 375 yards, 2 TDs and 1 INT. Let's get into the film.
Deshaun came out with an energy and you could tell that he wasn't going to take another loss. He was in rhythm early and the first throw I want to look at involved really nice touch. After the play action fake there is quickly pressure in Watson's face. He scrambles to his right and sees Hopkins open down the field. There's a defender slightly behind him who could undercut the route, if he throws it sharply. But he puts nice touch on the ball and leads Hop up field, to run for more YAC. Such a perfect throw.
Watson and the offense ate off of play action this game. Watson is rolled out to his right and Fuller runs the perfect route to find the hole in the Colts zone. Watson finds him in time and the throw is yet again perfect. With little space to work with on the sideline, Watson leaves Fuller juuuust enough space to tap his toes and stay in bounds. The precision by Watson was on another level.
Talking about accuracy, there might not be a more precision needed throw than the back shoulder fade. It needs to be high and outside, away from the CB, but also give the WR enough space to stay in bounds. It's an extremely difficult throw, but when mastered, almost impossible to defend. He throws it up to Nuk, one of the best in the game at winning these, and in turn, brings it down.
As the game went on, both teams landed blows. It was a back and forth affair and even went to overtime. Both teams struggled to finish the game, and it looked like we were headed for a tie. But when the Colts got aggressive and went for it on 4th down, and failed, the Texans were in a perfect position to steal the game. At Indianapolis' 43 yard line, getting 5-10 yards would put Ka'imi Fairbairn in perfect position to win the game. We lined up in 5 wide to spread the defense, and Watson found Hopkins on his patented slant route. He caught the ball in stride and gained 24 yards on the play. This put us on the IND 19 yard line, and set up Fairbairn for the game winning field goal.
The kick went through the uprights and the Texans were winless no more. 1-3, still not great, but hope had been restored, and we wouldn't see that next loss for so so long. We know what comes next, a legendary win streak that had fans on top of the world. I'm excited to rewatch the next 4 games for next weeks volume. Hope you enjoyed this week, and come back for more.