In a season where the Houston Texans had already lost two of their three best defensive players (J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus), deep down, we still knew they could at least compete each week, something that was difficult to fathom a couple of years ago during peak J.J. Watt days. We love Watt, but we all know the truth of 2017 with this team — there's only one guy that the Texans could not afford to lose, and on Thursday they lost him, for the remainder of the season.
Yes, a football hell on par with Brock Osweiler is upon us, Houston — Deshaun Watson tore his ACL on Thursday, and his stupendous rookie year is done in the blink of an eye.
The news was first reported by Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network and confirmed by the Houston Chronicle's John McClain. Watson reportedly tore the ACL in his right knee running a read option play at practice. Three seasons ago, in his freshman year at Clemson, Watson tore the ACL in his left knee, so at the very least, he is familiar with the rehab process and returned dynamic as ever from the same injury.
In addition to completely torpedoing the Texans' 2017 season, Watson's injury raises some questions and notable story lines. Let's take a minute and examine them...
So now who plays quarterback for the Texans?
That would be Thomas Benjamin Savage, the fourth-year quarterback who started the season and gave way to Deshaun Watson 30 minutes into the season. The Texans signed former O'Brien pupil (at Penn State) Matt McGloin as his backup. McGloin has started seven games in his career, and is 1-6 as a starter, his one win coming against the Texans in their disastrous 2013 season at NRG Stadium. And in a move that feels like a token P.R. move to distract the fans from Savage and McGloin being the top two QBs, the Texans signed T.J. Yates, who might be the most popular non-starter in the history of the team. (Too bad Case Keenum is thriving in Minnesota. He would have been ideal in this spot.)
Savage? McGloin? What about... well, you know...
Hey, I was one of the first ones to clamor for the Texans to sign Colin Kaepernick after it was evident that the Texans' new offense, with all of its movement and Deshaun-friendly stuff, would require some degree of mobility to function at a high level. Savage at QB feels like a slow, torturous death. There's no way the Texans sign Kaepernick, but there's also no doubt that signing the ousted QB would go a long way to healing the public image of owner Bob McNair, in the wake of his "inmates running the prison" comments a couple weeks ago.
What does this mean for the other skill guys — Hopkins, Fuller, Lamar Miller, Griffin?
Fantasy owners of any of these guys shouldn't cut them, but I'd have to take a long, hard look as to whether or not to start them, depending on match-ups and roster makeup. They are no longer the no-brainer starters they've become with Watson pulling the trigger.
How exhausted is Dr. Walter Lowe getting with all of these catastrophic injuries?
J.J. Watt's knee, Whitney Mercilus's pectoral muscle, Christian Covington's bicep, and now Watson's knee. The great Dr. Lowe is working on some damn expensive limbs.
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Is there anything good coming out of this?
Well, the only good thing about the day football-wise was Watson's winning the AFC Offensive Player of the Month and the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month for October, but even that is more like salt in the wound than something we can all relish, at this point. On a more macro level, given Watson's ability to mask the deficiencies of this team on all three sides of the ball, the Texans should go into the offseason with a MUCH clearer picture of where they need fixes in the draft and, more likely, free agency. These next nine games should be as clarifying from that standpoint as the 30-0 loss to the Chiefs in the playoffs two seasons ago. Of course, that led to them signing Brock Osweiler, so...um...GO ASTROS!
What will the Texans' final record be?
The line on the Colts game moved seven whole points, from Texans -14 to Texans -7 (which still sounds way too steep), so there's our basis for the drop-off in QB play. Of the remaining games on the schedule, the only ones that the Texans will be favored in are the home games against Indianapolis and San Francisco, and maybe Arizona. If O'Brien finds a way to finish 7-9, they should give him a five-year extension, if he goes 8-8, he should be Coach of the Year, and if he makes the playoffs, they should make him mayor.
When will Watson be ready?
All guesses are that he will be back in time for training camp. So, in the meantime, the Texans' sole focus needs to be on building better protection for him, and making sure that the offense functions in sixth gear like it was before Watson went down.
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