On Deshaun Watson: Beware of the Small Sample Size

Seven touchdown passes in his first three starts? A 300-yard passing game, which hardly ever happens in Houston?  A razor thin road loss to one of the league’s best teams? Why the hell wouldn’t Texans fans be excited about the future of the quarterback position?

Because that guy went 0-8 as a starter that season and was traded a year later for a 7th round draft pick that the Texans didn’t even keep.

Those were the 2013 stats for the first three starts of Case Keenum’s NFL career, and they should serve as a cautionary tale to Houston fans who have already tapped Deshaun Watson as a surefire Hall of Fame candidate and the answer to the Texans’ seemingly never-ending quarterback dilemma.

No, that’s not an indictment of Watson’s talent level or a proclamation that the two are even remotely similar players. Watson is far more athletic, competed (and won) in big games on big stages in college, and appears to have a grasp of Bill O’Brien’s notably complex offensive scheme that previous Texans’ quarterbacks never did. And considering that Texans’ fans have been waiting since the franchise’s inception for a quarterback who can bring a dynamic element to the offense that keeps opposing defenses guessing, it’s no wonder that the fanbase is heaping praise on Watson and declaring that the wait for a franchise signal caller is finally over.

(Quick aside: if you’re one of the not-at-all witty bastards who Tweeted “Houston, we have a quarterback!” here’s hoping your kidneys explode. Leave that phrase with Apollo 13 where it belongs.)

Here’s the thing: it’s been three (and a half) games. Take a deep breath, people.

“I just took a steaming dump on the Titans to the tune of an NFL rookie-record 5 touchdowns” Deshaun Watson is the same guy as “I passed for a paltry 125 yards and zero touchdowns against Cincinnati” Deshaun Watson.

“I damn near led us to an upset win on the road in New England” Deshaun Watson is the same player as “I barely completed 50% of my passes and posted a 42.7 QBR against the Jaguars at home” Deshaun Watson.

Yes, there were injuries to Will Fuller and Bruce Ellington in the earlier games and the argument can be made (rightfully so) that it’s Watson’s progression in such a short period of time that’s got everyone so pumped. But again, the kid has started exactly three NFL games. Let’s not saddle him — or the team — with unrealistic expectations.

If we’re being realistic — something sports fans who are recently enamored with an athlete, especially one on the team they root for, hate to do — Watson’s two-week annihilation of NFL defenses could very well have just as much to do with the opposition being atrocious defensively as with his being impressive offensively.

Consider this: heading into Week 3, the Titans’ defense ranked 27th in the league in yards per game allowed. The Patriots — who Watson picked apart last week — ranked dead last.

Take a gander at the Texans’ first half performance against Tennessee, where one could argue that the biggest play on nearly every drive came as a result of piss poor defense by the Titans:

Drive #1: 4 plays, 43 yards – Lamar Miller 2-yard TD run (Texans lead 7-0)

KEY PLAY: Facing a 2nd & 7 from the Titans’ 40-yard line, Watson completes a 35-yard pass to Bruce Ellington at the Tennessee 5 yard line. Replays show Ellington running wide open down the middle of the field between two utterly confused Titans defenders. Houston scores two plays later.


Drive #2: 11 plays, 76 yards – Watson TD pass to Deandre Hopkins (Texans lead 14-0)

KEY PLAY: After a beautiful misdirection in the backfield, Watson dumps the ball off to Lamar Miller, who has open field in front of him that equates to the approximate surface area of both North and South Dakota. Miller scampers 32 yards and the Texans score two plays later.


Drive #3: 9 plays, 76 yards – Watson’s 2nd TD pass to Will Fuller (Texans lead 21-0)

KEY PLAY: The biggest gainer on this particular drive was a 17-yard dump off to Stephen Anderson, who catches the ball and turns around to find precisely no one within 10 yards of him. Big gain. Texans score two plays later. (Notice a pattern yet?)


Drive #4: 12 plays, 43 yards – Fairbairn 50-yard FG (Texans lead 24-7)

KEY PLAY: Perhaps the biggest play of this drive was the one Watson didn’t make, missing a wide open Will Fuller on what would have been a 39-yard touchdown pass.


Drive #5: 2 plays, 58 yards – Watson 1-yard TD run (Texans lead 30-14)

KEY PLAY: With the Titans closing the gap to 24-14, Watson’s touchdown gave the Texans some much needed breathing room late in the first half. But it was a 45-yard pass interference penalty — with Tennessee rookie defensive back Adoree’ Jackson mugging Will Fuller — that set up the touchdown on the very next play.


Miraculously, the Titans gave Houston yet another chance to score in the first half after Marcus Mariota threw his second interception of the afternoon on Tennessee’s first play from scrimmage following the Watson touchdown run. The Texans marched down to the Titans’ 18 yard line only to have Watson make one of his few mistakes of the afternoon, throwing an ill-advised pass that was easily picked off near the goal line and costing Houston an opportunity for at least a field goal heading into the locker room.

It’s that Deshaun Watson that Texans’ fans need to be prepared to see: the one that makes bad decisions because he’s a 22-year old rookie in the NFL. The one that will inevitably get caught up in the moment when things are going well and try to do too much; or get frustrated in the moment when things are going badly and try to do too much.

Houston fans have every right to be excited about what Deshaun Watson has already brought to the table. We here at DSB sure as hell are. Here’s hoping the Texans’ faithful are as willing to forgive his inadequacies when they rear their ugly heads as they are to praise his outstanding play over such a small sample size against sub-par competition.

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