Activity in the Carolinas came to a screeching halt Wednesday night. Well, as close as a preseason NFL game can get to stopping all activity.
Deshaun Watson, who led Clemson to a national title, made his NFL debut for the Houston Texans. At Clemson, Watson — runner-up for the Heisman Trophy — was must-see TV. As for the game itself, he even had fans at Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium cheering like mad. (No, the Panthers’ Cam Newton did not play.)
Never mind that the Panthers won the game, Watson flashed enough promise that Texans fans, long thirsty for a quarterback, were hopeful. (Or as hopeful as anyone can be in a team’s preseason opener.)
The Texans’ first-round draft pick (and 12th overall) completed 15 of 25 passes for 179 yards (with a 81.9 passer rating) in relief of starter Tom Savage. When Watson’s receivers were covered, he tucked the ball and took off, even scoring on a 15-yard run in the third quarter. Although his team lost, 27-17, Watson showed poise and awareness, even if he wasn’t facing the intensity of a first-team or regular-season defense.
“This is professional football, this is the highest level of this sport,” Watson said (via Chron.com). “It’s going to be faster, bigger guys, smarter guys. At the same time, I’m doing the same thing they’re doing: watching film and trying to play fast.”
For now, though, he’ll sit on the bench behind Savage, who completed 9 of 11 passes for 69 yards and a 92.8 passer rating in the first half. Clearly, though, the heat is on.
“It’s going to be fun to see what Deshaun Watson does,” Panthers Coach Ron River had admitted in the days leading up to the game. “I’m a big fan of his, obviously a fan of Clemson and what they’ve done the last two years,” Rivera said. “If I had a chance and a Heisman vote, I’d have given it to him.”
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