Deshaun Watson's rookie season ended with the quarterback on injured reserve after tearing an ACL. While the injury ultimately occurred during a simple practice handoff, Watson has since said he believed the tendon loosened during a hit in the previous game.
After destroying opponents in one of the most impressive six-game stretches in rookie quarterbacking history, it's fair to be concerned that Watson's career could be plagued by injuries. After all, it's not too long ago another dynamic quarterback, Robert Griffin III, took the league by storm, only to see injuries help corrode his staying power.
Houston Texans coach Bill O'Brien isn't concerned about Watson's injury snowballing, noting that Watson has a good feel for sliding and avoiding contact.
"He has a really good instinct for maybe gaining the 5 or 6 yards and then going down before he takes the shot," O'Brien said recently, via Sarah Barshop of ESPN. "That's a big thing that young quarterbacks usually have a problem with. He seems to have an instinct for being able to stay out of harm's way."
As O'Brien begins to install a new offense for Watson, he's cognizant of the balance QBs must strike between playing it safe and giving up on opportunities.
"It's hard [to coach a quarterback out of never giving up on a play]," O'Brien said. "I think, when you look at all these guys, [they] are such great competitors. If you look at [Ben] Roethlisberger and [Carson] Wentz and Andrew Luck, they don't think that the play is ever over. So they're going to try to keep the play alive. Same thing with Watson.
"They're going to try to keep the play alive and they don't think it's ever over. They're the ultimate competitors. So, you just have to talk to them, in my opinion, the guys that I've dealt with like that, 'Hey look, here's the deal.' Again, going back to I have a clock in my head, and when this clock reaches a certain point with the protection we've called, you better either think about taking off, sliding, throwing it away. You don't need to take an unnecessary shot, but I don't think it's easy to coach that with every single guy."
With Watson already seeing one season end due to injury, every big hit will come with cringes and prayers from the Houston faithful, hoping that the dynamic young quarterback won't become the latest to see his talents eroded by injury. It's a concern O'Brien won't fret over.