Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson looks to pass during a game against the New England Patriots last month. Photo by Matthew Healey/ UPI | License Photo
HOUSTON -- Deshaun Watson took the snap, accelerating to his left to get the Tennessee Titans' defense to react to him before smoothly pitching the football to running back Lamar Miller for a perfectly executed option touchdown run.
It was reminiscent of a traditional 19 option play run predominantly at the high school and collegiate levels. It was also a snapshot of the myriad of creative possibilities, including the read option, that exist with Watson now under center for the Houston Texans offense.
The athleticism of the Texans' dual-threat rookie quarterback is changing the strategy of the offense as head coach Bill O'Brien and Watson keep collaborating on incorporating play-calling that accentuates his strengths. Watson repeatedly froze the Titans' defense during a 57-14 win Sunday with his deceptive play-action fakes, convincing veteran players they had to respect the running game.
Whether it's muscling in spirals to his receivers or taking off on a scramble, Watson's presence is changing how the Texans orchestrate their offense.
The read-option is something that Watson excelled at running as a consensus All-America and national championship game winner at Clemson. Now, it's emerging as a vital part of the Texans' offense and it paid major dividends during a blowout victory as Watson accounted for five total touchdowns on four scoring throws and one run.
The Texans want to keep their offense evolving and changing each week to prevent defenses from adapting to Watson.
"He's a fun guy to coach," O'Brien said. "He knows how to operate within that realm of what we're doing. In fact, we've learned a lot from him about it, to be honest with you. He's very smart. Somebody, whether it's next week against Kansas City, somebody's going to give us something different.
"We just have to kind of do the best we can to not stay the same. We have to keep trying to change it up, be creative and make sure that we're doing a good job for him schematically, but it was pretty good."
Watson showed off so many facets of his diverse game against the Titans as the Texans set a franchise record for points and piled up 33 first downs and 445 yards of total offense. He completed 25 of 34 passes for 283 yards, four scores and one interception for a 125.0 passer rating. He was only sacked once.
"They better get somebody out there that can contain him, that's all I can tell you," defensive end Jadeveon Clowney said. "Because he can run and he can throw."
In just his third NFL start, the former Heisman Trophy finalist became the first rookie quarterback to pass for four touchdowns and run for one since former Minnesota Vikings quarterback Fran Tarkenton in 1961. Plus, Watson tied an NFL record for the most touchdowns by a rookie quarterback.
"Just grown with my confidence," Watson said. "Being able to operate and run this offense, making sure we're in the right plays and just bringing the energy and leadership to this team. I try and do that each and every play, make sure we're in the right play and just kind of continue to grow from there. I have a long way to go and it's still early in my career and just hope to build on it."
Part of that growth involves marrying option concepts with traditional pro-style techniques. It also includes O'Brien listening to Watson's ideas and working together to build effective game plans.
"It's just an open mind on the offense," Watson said. "Coach OB does a great job of making sure that everyone is buying in. He's not one of those guys who's going to go by his rules only. He makes sure that he spreads the wealth and makes sure that if a coach has to say something or if a player has to say something, if it's going to work and be positive, then he's up for it."