When Deshaun Watson runs with the ball, everyone with the Texans holds their breath. They know he can score a touchdown but he can also get injured.
The Texans experienced the cold reality of playing without Deshaun Watson last season. It’s not something they want to face in 2018. They also understand their starting quarterback needs to adjust his game if he doesn’t want to get injured again.
Sunday night’s game against the Cowboys was a perfect example of what Watson can’t afford to do. He did a nice job of getting outside and producing yards, but he must learn how to finish plays without taking big hits. The sideline needs to become Watson’s friend.
If he continues to fight for every single yard his slight frame is going to give way against much larger defenders.
The good news is that Bill O’Brien and company understand what’s at stake. They’ve made it clear that protecting Watson is one of their top priorities. Their lack of talent on the offensive line makes that difficult, but there are things they can do.
Principally, they can help Watson learn when to slide and when to fight for that extra yard.
That isn’t the only thing O’Brien and his staff can do though. They also need to alter their offensive game plan. A scheme that features more three-step drops would absolutely lessen the pressure on Watson to make plays outside the pocket.
Having receivers like DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller should make that a viable strategy for the Texans. Both players have the ability required to win battles against defensive backs at the line of scrimmage.
Changing things on the fly will be a challenge though. Right now, the only successful plays this offense produces occur when Watson makes a heroic play. That makes for great highlights, but it’s not a formula for long-term success in Houston.
O’Brien’s tenuous hold on the head coaching job puts him in a tough spot. If he puts the shackles on Watson, it might cost him a game or two this season. In turn, that could cost O’Brien his job.
He still needs to do what’s in the best interest of his players though. For Watson, that clearly means he has to gain more protection from his coaching staff. If he doesn’t, he’s not going to finish this season in one piece.