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Texans' Watson ahead of schedule on ACL rehab

By The Sports Xchange
Texans' Watson ahead of schedule on ACL rehab
Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson drops back to pass during a game against the New England Patriots in September. Photo by Matthew Healey/ UPI | License Photo

INDIANAPOLIS -- Deshaun Watson dazzled the NFL with his dynamic style as a rookie, electrifying crowds with his rare athleticism, imagination and poise.

Before a torn anterior cruciate ligament prematurely ended his season, Watson left no doubt about his skills as a dual-threat quarterback.

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Although new Houston Texans general manager Brian Gaine wasn't with the AFC South club during the season while he worked for the Buffalo Bills' scouting department, he's keenly aware of how the former Clemson star temporarily transformed a dormant attack into the highest-scoring offense in the NFL.

As Gaine takes on the heavy lifting of upgrading the roster during his first NFL Scouting Combine running the Texans' personnel department, he doesn't have to worry about addressing the quarterback position. He's convinced Watson has every trait it takes to be a franchise quarterback.

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"The physical part you see on tape, everybody sees the ability and the demonstrated performance on the field, but what I can speak to is, a little more importantly, is the character of the individual, the makeup of the guy, the work ethic, his passion for the game, his commitment to the game, in there early, staying late," Gaine said. "All the intangible profiles that you look for in a quarterback, he possesses those. There's a lot of progress to be made, a lot of improvement ahead of him, but when you're breaking down the physical profile and the intangible profile of the player, the physical profile's all good. I would equally say that the intangible profile is equally positive as well."

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Before his injury, Watson was on pace to finish the season with 43 touchdown passes.

Watson threw 16 touchdown passes in the month of October alone, breaking Dan Marino's NFL rookie record for most touchdown passes in a calendar month from 1983. He finished his first NFL season with 1,699 yards, 19 touchdown passes, two touchdown runs and 269 rushing yards.

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The Texans and Watson are upbeat that he will participate in organized team activities on a limited basis. Watson is running on an anti-gravity treadmill and is ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation.

"I'm optimistic about that," said Gaine, who affirmed that defensive end J.J. Watt and running back D'Onta Foreman are on track to return for the first game from a broken leg and a ruptured Achilles tendon, respectively. "A lot of that is because of his work ethic and football character and his personal character. The makeup of the individual, I wouldn't be surprised about that at all."

--As one of the most disruptive pass rushers and run-stoppers in the NFL, Texans Pro Bowl outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney has emerged as an extremely valuable commodity.

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The Texans have Clowney under contract through a $13.846 million fifth-year team option for 2018, but want to be in business with the former top overall pick for a long time.

Clowney could become the highest paid non-quarterback in the NFL, which would entail topping the six-year, $114.1 million contract of Denver Broncos pass rusher Von Miller. That deal includes $70 million guaranteed and an average annual salary of $19.016 million.

Ideally, the Texans would like to get something done with Clowney before the season starts or even training camp.

"That's something that we're currently evaluating right now, about the feasibility of that," Gaine said. "It's certainly something we have interest in."

The Texans are also interested in pursuing a long-term contract extension for standout inside linebacker Benardrick McKinney.

"I was here when we drafted him and I was here for the three years to watch him grow and develop into a full-time starter," said Gaine, who added that retaining veteran corner Johnathan Joseph is under consideration. "I'm excited about the opportunity to consider that as well. He's certainly a core piece and a guy that we would consider doing that with as well."

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His philosophy is to try to keep a lot of the Texans' players on the roster.

"Well one thing I will say is, personally, I believe in drafting, developing, growing and extending our own," Gaine said. "The more times that we have the ability to do that, the more confident I'm going to be on doing extensions."

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