Deshaun Watson introduced himself to the American public on a national stage in 2016 with an unforgettable performance against Alabama in the College Football Playoff title game. Yet, thrown into Bill O'Brien's system in Houston with seemingly random parts, Watson is expanding his game to levels we somehow didn't see coming.
At Clemson, Dabo Swinney rarely used Watson in the read-option game, typically favoring his QB as a pocket passer. In Houston, Watson's proven willing to force the issue on the ground.
This was all the more relevant on Monday night.
After losing to the Giants in Week 3, the Texans fell to 0-3 on the season with many jumping off the bandwagon. Just like Watson, the Texans have reinvented themselves, in large part by force. Watson, coming off a tragic knee injury to end 2017, didn't offer the same explosiveness as he was clearly still recovering from such an unusual and devastating ailment.
O'Brien shifted his focus back to the ground game, featuring Lamar Miller more and finding creative ways to get DeAndre Hopkins the ball. Now throw in trade deadline acquisition Demaryius Thomas, and this offense is unfair.
The defense, featuring a healthy JJ Watt and Tyrann Mathieu, has all the tools to dominate on a weekly basis. On Monday night, they made Marcus Mariota and Tennessee look rather boring an inconsequential, even forcing a goal-line stand in the second quarter which changed the entire outlook of the game.
On the very next drive, Miller gave Houston their first lead of the game on a 97-yard touchdown run, and they never looked back.
JuJu did it yesterday.... Lamar Miller does it tonight. NINETY-SEVEN YARDS.pic.twitter.com/FyJZIRFNnC— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) November 27, 2018
Until Houston proves they can perform come playoff time, they'll be doubted. As electric as Watson can be, he has yet to start a playoff game and could easily unravel with the pressure on.
But given how he's performed in high-pressure moments in the past, Watson is unlikely to crumble. We ought to respect this Texans team for what they are--a legitimate threat in the AFC.