Deshaun Watson earns rookie QB praise from O'Brien

Print

Bill O'Brien has authored three straight nine-win seasons in Houston without any hint of a legitimate signal-caller.

Once billed as a quarterback whisperer, the Texans coach has struggled to develop a franchise arm, which comes as no surprise when you examine the laundry list of milquetoast talent throwing the ball during O'Brien's tenure.

Brian Hoyer, Case Keenum, Ryan Mallett, Ryan Fitzpatrick, T.J. Yates, Brandon Weeden, Brock Osweiler and Tom Savage? Good luck unearthing a more humdrum, soulless patch of passers.

Less than a week into training camp, has O'Brien finally found an answer? His enthusiasm for first-round quarterback Deshaun Watson appears to grow with each practice.

"Deshaun is ahead of any rookie quarterback I've ever been around," O'Brien said Tuesday following the team's latest camp session.

We're a long way from June, when the Texans coach tempered expectations by saying Watson -- mired in a battle with Savage -- was "not nearly where he needs to be to be a full-time starter."

If there's reason for suspicion, it comes from O'Brien himself. After all, this is the same coach who infamously gushed over Hoyer and Mallett -- a couple of JAGs -- during a troubling scene from Hard Knocks two summers ago.

O'Brien isn't alone, though, with longtime Houston beat writer John McClain comparing Watson to an iconic Hall of Famer:

McClain on Tuesday tweeted that Watson "couldn't have thrown a better pass" on a completion in the red-zone, while noting that Savage and the first-rounder are "throwing so well cause they're pushing each other."

Still, O'Brien hoisting up Watson begs the question: How many rookie quarterbacks has the coach been around? The list is brief, led by Savage in Houston and Matt Gutierrez, Kevin O'Connell, Zac Robinson, Mallett and Hoyer with the Patriots. Not exactly a feast for the gods.

Bottom line: NFL quarterbacks should look competent in basic camp practices against hyper-vanilla defensive fronts. Still, the transition from college to the pros is thorny, leaving Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells to drum up his tried-and-true checklist for drafting a non-dud under center:

1. He must be a senior, because you need time and maturity to develop into a good professional quarterback.

2. He must be a graduate, because you want someone who takes his responsibilities seriously.

3. He must be a three-year starter, because you need to make sure his success wasn't ephemeral and that he has lived as "the guy" for some period of time.

4. He must have at least 23 wins, because the big passing numbers must come in the context of winning games.

Watson passes every test save for leaving school after his junior season. Should he be dinged for that decision when he was motivated enough to graduate with a degree in communications after just three years at Clemson?

His NFL future is hazy, but Watson is off to a solid start. Let's see where we are when the real games begin.

Here's what else we learned from Tuesday's training camp action:

1. Tensions bubbled over in a smattering of NFL cities. Let's start in New England where wideout Julian Edelman and cornerback Stephon Gilmore were tossed from practice after a brief scuffle. Maintaining a zero-tolerance policy on fights, coach Bill Belichick immediately hit the ejector seat on both players following the fisticuffs.

2. Vontaze Burfict is back to his old tricks. The Bengals linebacker triggered a "huge shoving match" after he dove at the knees of Giovani Bernard, the veteran running back on the mend from a torn ACL.

Paul Dehner of The Cincinnati Enquirer summed it up appropriately:

3. Last week, Jeremy Maclin floated the idea Baltimore might own the league's top trio of wideouts. We don't agree -- and neither does Saints receiver Willie Snead.

4. Back to Mallett, who dangerously imploded during a Friday-into-Saturday practice performance that saw him toss an ungodly seven picks, prompting Ravens pass rusher Terrell Suggs to openly mock his teammate. Mallett has been a flowering disaster in camp, and can't be bothered with the prospect of Colin Kaepernick joining the team: "If he comes, cool. If he doesn't, cool. We don't really care about that right now."

This Mallett guy's something special.

5. Asked to unpack his desire for a Super Bowl, 39-year-old Vikings defensive back Terence Newman paralleled his quest to the world of romance. "Hot babes in college," Newman said. "You might get eye contact, maybe a smile and then never hear from her again, right? So I'm chasing this hot babe known as the Lombardi Trophy."

6. Different story in New England, where Patriots owner Robert Kraft bemoaned his team's biggest offseason hurdle, admitting: "We had a problem. We had no more room to put banners so we had to change the construction around."

Talk about a long, dark night of the soul. Thankfully, Pats fans will watch the team unveil their latest Super Bowl banner on Sept. 7, right before New England beats the Chiefs 47-7 in the season opener.

7. Jets corner Morris Claiborne wanted to wear the same No. 24 jersey made famous by Gang Green icon Darrelle Revis. The team's response? No way, pal.

Transaction Corner


1. The Seahawks furnished safety Kam Chancellor with a three-year, $36 million deal packed with $25 million guaranteed. Entering the final season of a five-year pact he signed in 2013, Seattle's hard-hitting backstop is now on the books through 2020 and set to potentially finish his career with the team that drafted him back in 2010.

2. Left tackles keep vanishing on us. One day after Branden Albert called it quits, 30-year-old bookend Ryan Clady announced his desire to walk away from the game after seven seasons with the Broncos and one with the Jets. Draped with multiple Pro Bowls and All-Pro mentions during his career, Clady in his prime was one of the best left tackles around.

3. It won't hover near the fever-pitch heights of Folk-Aguayo, but the New York Giants on Tuesday signed veteran booter Mike Nugent to match wits with Aldrick Rosas, a 22-year-old kicker with zero experience in the NFL.

4. The Saints released Orlando Franklin after five days with the club. It's fair to wonder how many more chances the 29-year-old left tackle will be given.

Injury Updates


1. No reason for panic, but Cam Newton was kept from throwing Tuesday after feeling soreness during warmups. Coming off shoulder surgery, a cautious approach is the sensible path for Ace Boogie.

2. Ugly news out of the nation's capital, where Redskins coach Jay Gruden announced that tight end Jordan Reed -- stashed away on the physically unable to perform list -- met with a specialist about his toe injury. Reed is now saddled with the dubious NO TIMETABLE FOR RETURN designation.

3. Back to the Ravens Nest, where the injury bug continues to gnaw. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported that rookie guard Nico Siragusa tore his ACL, MCL and PCL while running with the first team Tuesday. He's done for the year.

Coach John Harbaugh also announced that tight end Crockett Gillmore will miss the entire season following MCL surgery. After losing Gillmore and Dennis Pitta, the Ravens are paper-thin at tight end. Gary Barnidge, anyone?

4. Falcons rookie pass-rusher Takkarist McKinley was given the go-ahead to participate in 11-on-11 drills on the heels of post-Combine shoulder surgery.

Print

Fan Discussion