ESPN asked three NFL reporters, two from opposing teams, whether they thought that former Clemson Tiger signal-caller Deshaun Watson will start for the Houston Texans over incumbent Tom Savage. Read their thoughts on quarterback battle below:
Sarah Barshop, Texans reporter: The Texans will do everything possible to allow Savage to be a game manager, working with a great defense and a run game they hope can be consistently productive. The external pressure to put Watson in the game will be enormous every time Savage makes a mistake. But O’Brien and his staff want it to be Savage for as long as possible. Is he good enough to do what they need and still be under center by midseason? I’m not so sure. Franchises that choose to start an experienced quarterback ahead of a novice QB with far greater potential invariably become stuck between a rock and a hard place. Barring injury, however, I think Savage will still be heading the huddle at the halfway point.
Michael DiRocco, Jacksonville Jaguars reporter: I may be in the minority, but I’m going to stick with Savage. Although he doesn’t have much experience (five games and 92 attempts in three seasons), he was solid last season after replacing Osweiler. Savage also seems to be handling O’Brien’s increased involvement with the offense and quarterbacks pretty well. Remember, though most draft analysts believe Watson was the most ready of all the rookie quarterbacks to play right away, the general consensus was that none of them should really be on the field in 2017. Watson has some limitations in terms of arm strength, and he turned the ball over 20 times (17 interceptions) last season at Clemson. He’ll also have to transition from running a spread offense, and there’s no way to know just how long that will take. The Texans have good playmakers on offense and one of the NFL’s better defenses. They can win the division with a QB who minimizes mistakes and turnovers. Savage is better equipped to do that now.
Mike Wells, Indianapolis Colts reporter: I’m going with Watson. There’s no need for the Texans to have Watson sit back and wait to get snaps when Savage probably isn’t the long-term solution for Houston’s revolving door at quarterback. The Texans shouldn’t have traded up in the draft to select Watson if they felt comfortable with Savage. Houston is the back-to-back AFC South champ, but I have the Texans going from first to worst in the division even with the return of do-everything defensive player J.J. Watt, who only played three games last season because of a back injury. Watson will likely have his fair share of bumps along the way, but it won’t hurt the Texans to put the former Clemson standout on the field if he’s not already their starter earlier in the season. Houston’s defense should be good enough to allow Watson and the offense to score less than 25 points per game.