Carolina Panthers

How ex-Clemson QB Deshaun Watson went from preseason success vs. Panthers to NFL starter

Former Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson is the Houston Texans’ new starter under center.
Former Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson is the Houston Texans’ new starter under center. AP

That didn’t take long.

When the Houston Texans selected former Clemson quarterback in the first round (No. 12 overall) of April’s NFL draft, the question wasn’t if he would be the team’s starter. It was when.

As of Tuesday, it appears that time has come sooner rather than later. Watson, who came off the bench in Houston’s 29-7 loss to Jacksonville on Sunday, will start this week’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Watson was dealing with an ankle injury during practice Tuesday, but he is still expected to start.

The move isn’t a surprise, especially not after Watson’s performance Sunday and during the preseason. In fact, his play against the Carolina Panthers in his first professional game in the preseason put him on an accelerated trajectory for the starting job.

Against Carolina, Watson went an efficient 15-of-25 for 179 yards. More impressive were his three carries for 24 yards and a touchdown, including a 15-yard scamper into the end zone that split two Carolina defenders.

But throughout the preseason, the Texans insisted Watson was the backup to starter Tom Savage. Savage was a fourth-round pick by Houston in the 2014 NFL draft, and he has never thrown a touchdown in a regular-season game.

That much was evident during the loss to Jacksonville. At the helm for Houston, Savage led the team to a dismal 85 yards of offense during the first half. He was also sacked six times.

Watson replaced Savage after halftime and immediately led Houston 75 yards for a touchdown. It was the lone bright spot for the Texans.

Watson also threw an interception and fumbled in his regular-season debut, so it wasn’t like his performance was perfect. Still, he moved the offense, something Savage couldn’t.

Brendan Marks: 704-358-5889, @brendanrmarks