The Texans are in the middle of their best winning streak in franchise history. Last volume of Watson Watch looked at the start of the streak, and in this volume we continue it with wins against the Broncos, Redskins, Titans and Browns. Let's dive into the film through the lens of Deshaun Watson to see how he helped orchestrate this ridiculous winning streak.
Watson Watch Volume 5: 2018 Weeks 9-12
Week 9: Vs. Denver Broncos
Deshaun Watson had a pretty great yet conservative day. He finished 17/24 for 213 yards, 2 TDs and 0 INTs. An extremely efficient day, albeit for not that much yards, but the TD:INT ratio is great to see. As a young QB he needed to start cutting down on his INTs and learning from his mistakes, so that was great to see.
This was the first game after the Texans traded for WR Demaryius Thomas and he had the chance for a revenge game against the Denver Broncos. Watson wanted to help him achieve that and went to him early. He had 2 catches for 49 yards on the first drive and this play was pretty perfect. Off the play action fake, Watson finds Thomas in stride on the dig route. He places it high for Thomas because he knows with his size it will only help. This looked like the start of a great connection.
To cap off that drive Deshaun threw a beauty of a TD to TE Jordan Thomas. It's clear Deshaun loves to go to his bigger weapons in the red zone, and hopefully Thomas can show something this year. He runs a corner route and Watson places the ball perfectly away from the defender, even though he has pressure in his face. The touch he puts on the ball to get it over the LB but with plenty of space for Thomas to stay in bounds is ridiculous.
It really seemed like the Demarius Thomas show was taking off. He and Deshaun had a pretty instant chemistry and I think that you have to give Watson a lot of credit there. He has had to deal with this again with Kenny Stills last season, and they too had little practice time but clicked instantly. On this play the rollout gets Watson in space and he finds Thomas down the sideline for a first down. Thomas cuts off his route sharply and Watson gives him a good ball to toe drag swag.
Deshaun's second TD of the game was in large due to his eye manipulation of the safety. From the end zone view you can really see how Watson is looking to his left. This holds the safety in place and keeps him a step behind from Hopkins. Once Hopkins crosses to the right side of the field, Watson turns to his right, centers his shoulders and hips to the target and fires it to Nuk. This throw isn't open if he doesn't hold the safety though, and it's great to see in just his second year.
The offense went a bit cold in the 2nd half but the defense did it's job and held it down. The Broncos would go on to miss a FG that could've won the game, but the Texans winning streak would not end that day.
Week 10: Vs. Washington Redskins
Next up was the Redskins and Deshaun did not have his best day. He finished 16/24 for 208 yards, 1 TD and 2 INTs. Let's see what went wrong, but how he still did enough to get the W.
His TD was as perfect as possible. The Texans run a fake screen, much like the one we ran against the Chiefs in the playoffs (sorry for bringing that game up again). Hop is the guy Watson is looking for and he does a good job of selling the screen, then running vertical. CB Josh Norman is in the area so Watson has to LASER the ball in a tight window. His "weak" arm strength gets showed up here as he fits the ball in inches away from Norman. It's in perfect position for Nuk and all he has to do is bring it in. TOUCHDOWN!
Watson's first INT wasn't really his fault. He has Keke Coutee coming open on a deep crossing route and as he is throwing it, he gets hit and that causes the ball to flutter in the air and is underthrown. He saw the route developing well and if he had a clean pocket this would've been money. Can't really blame him here, just unlucky.
Watson's 2nd INT was his fault however. The Texans are running a RB screen to the left and the Redskins completely sniff it out. They have three defenders in the area and LB Preston Smith is able to swat the ball away and bring it down. Deshaun should've seen that it would've been a loss anyways, and just thrown it into the feet of the RB instead. There's no need in taking a risk like that, but Watson's game is predicated on risk. I'm fine with him taking a risk like the fake screen pass for a TD, where it's based on his arm strength and talent, and a high reward scenario. But no need to risk it on a play where there's not one, but three defenders in the area, in a low reward situation.
It was a close game all throughout but this play by Deshaun got us into field goal range, which ended up being the game winner. It was 3rd and 20 on the Redskins 47 yard line, not close enough for a FG, but no worry, Watson to the rescue. Hopkins, Coutee and Griffen run deep routes to try and get the first, but none of them are open early and the pocket was starting to be compromised from the RG. Watson steps up and hits his check down (see he does it lol) Jordan Thomas. Who rumbles forward and picks up a solid 11 yards.
It was just enough for us to get into field goal range and Fairbairn nailed the 54 yarder. The Redskins would drive down the field late but the defense did well to hold them to attempt a 63 yard field goal, which was expectedly short. Win #7 was in the books and even though it was close, Watson didn't play his best game and we still won. If he was on, it wouldn't have been a fight. Kind of like next week...
Week 11: Vs. Tennessee Titans
It's always fun to beat up on the Tits and Watson was on point this game. He finished 19/24 for 210 yards, 2 (passing) TDs (1 rushing TD) and 0 INTs. Another efficient and safe game, leading us to victory.
Deshaun's first TD was a nicely placed throw to Demaryius Thomas. You can really see how much he loves to target his weapons with size in the red zone. That's something that we're lacking from our current WRs and hopefully something where the TE's can pickup the slack. So on this play Thomas is running a corner route but the CB has done a pretty good job of staying close. Watson throws him open though by leading the ball down to the pylon, but high and away from the CB (did that make sense?). Because the ball is placed perfectly the CB can't get to it and it looks like an easy TD.
I haven't shown it much in this article, but we all know that Watson's legs are a huge weapon. We occasionally involve him in the run game and its usually fruitful. He runs the read option here and has Ryan Griffen out in front blocking well. He's just too fast for the defense, wins the edge and they can't catch him. I've harped on my concerns about the red zone offense, but on the goal line, these read options could kill defenses.
This next play shows off Watson's ball placement, a big strength of his. Without a perfectly placed ball, this could've very easily been an INT. Hopkins is slow to release on his go route, but it actually helps him out. It helps him sneak behind the CB sitting in a shallow zone. The deep third CB looks to the inside WR first, but then notices Hopkins coming open. This is where it gets interesting. You can see Hop wave his hand like "I'm open". Deshaun sees him but instead of leading him down the field and giving him a ball he can catch in stride and run for YAC, he drops the ball a bit short, and too the sideline. He does this because that deep third CB is closing quickly, and if he led Hop upfield, it would've been an easy INT. Ball placement = 10/10
We started this game with Demaryius Thomas and it's only right that we end it with him too. After the play action fake Watson starts to rollout to his right. He quickly sees Thomas coming open and fires it to him perfectly. The throw on the run is perfect and Thomas has enough space to stay in bounds. Man, these two really had a helluva connection.
That touchdown helped put the game out of reach and put the Tits to bed. W #8 felt REALLY good and to finally have a comfortable W was awesome. This felt like a legit W that gave us more confidence in this team. Divisional games are always tough but this was convincing. Onto the next game!
Week 12: Vs. Cleveland Browns
First of all f*ck the Browns, okay, now let's proceed. This was another fun W, and even though it was the Browns, the way we won in convincing fashion much like last week, was refreshing. Watson finished 22/31 for 224 yards, 1 TD and 0 INT. THE 0 INT STREAK CONTINUES!
The first play I want to look at shows some great development from Watson's pocket presence. We saw early in his rookie season he would be a lot more panicky (to be expected), would get happy feet and scramble when he didn't need to. But this was a great example of keeping his composure. There's pressure to his right but look how calmly he just steps up to avoid it. He resets his feet and fires the ball to Hopkins for 17 yards. Perfect.
This next throw is the definition of throwing someone open and yet another example of Watson's elite ball placement. Hop is running a corner route and the CB does well to stay attached, but they are below Hop. He was able to stack the CB and is open if the ball is placed upfield and away from the CB. This is a really tough throw, but not for Watson. He scans the field, looks middle to hold the safety in place and away from Hop, then fires it to Nuk. You can't ask for a better pass.
I feel like I'm repeating myself at this point but these games have really emphasized two things. 1.) Size in the red zone from Jordan Thomas or Demaryius Thomas. 2.) Watson's elite ball placement. Can you guess which play this will be about? Well, if you guessed 1.) you're right! Thomas runs a really nice corner route here and I love his physicality to throw the defender away. Watson sees it and gives him a nice ball for the TD. The defender sort of recovers but because Watson puts this high for Thomas, the defender has no chance. Hey! I combined 1.) and 2.) wow, I'm proud.
This last play touches on something I think could possibly be Watson's biggest weakness: throwing with anticipation. I think he can do a lot better of a job at that, which will help him get the ball out quicker. It's difficult to assess how good/bad Watson is at doing this, because of how option route heavy the offense is. From my first glance during live games, it seemed like Watson would wait for someone to be completely open, rather than throwing it before they were open, knowing that they would be open. But thinking about it more, he has to make sure the WR sees the same thing he does, and runs the same route he is thinking about. Thus, he waits longer for them to come open because he has to ensure they run the same route.
Enough of that rant, let's look at the play and a good example of throwing with anticipation. Hopkins is running a deep dig route past the LBs. Look when Watson starts to throw this, Hop aint open. But he is running towards a hole in the defense, in between the LBs. Watson trusts that Hop sees what he sees and throws with anticipation, before Hop is open. This is such a high level play, and something I hope to see more of as we progress through this series.
That'll do it for this week's volume of Watson Watch. 4 Ws in one volume doesn't happen often but with how our schedule is next season, we could see this happen one or two times again. Could you imagine us going on another ridiculous win streak? Come back next week for a recap of 4 more games from Deshaun Watson's view.