Film Review: Meet The New (smarter) Deshaun Watson

Embed from Getty Images

From an outsiders perspective, Deshaun Watson’s 2018 season might look like a regression from his 2017. He has a worse passer rating, worse touchdown percentage, and his rushing numbers are down from where they were in 2017. But the stats don’t tell the story.

Watson got off to a slow start due to a considerable amount of rust from the ACL injury. He had three rather uninspiring games in a row that dug the Texans to a 0-3 start. A switch must have turned on in his head, as Watson shook the rust and started being smarter with the ball.

Passing Yards:
2,160  
Passing Touchdowns: 16
Interceptions: 6
Completion Percentage: 71.6%
Touchdown Percentage: 6.4%
Interception Percentage: 2.4%
QBR: 109.08

During the current Texans win streak, Watson resembles the part of a franchise quarterback.

Some might think that the completion percentage could be due to check downs, but that’s not the case as he is averaging 12.06 yards per completion during the streak.

Those six interceptions aren’t as bad as it looks.

  1.  Tipped pass by Preston Smith on a screen
  2. Bad pass by Watson intended for Coutee in triple coverage
  3. Broken play. Pass forced into the end zone.
  4. Tipped pass at the line of scrimmage
  5. Hailmary-esque throw that was forced due to incoming pressure
  6. Forced pass into double coverage to Hopkins

Out of six interceptions, I’ve concluded that two were indeed ‘boneheaded’ mistakes. Two were tipped at the line of scrimmage on a very athletic play by a lineman. One was due to nobody being open, and the denial of throwing the ball away. Lastly, one was due to forcing the ball down the field.

Here is one of the interceptions that I find absolutely inexcusable. I get it Deshaun, you want to push the ball down the field. You’re a gamer, and most of the time it works out for you. BUT NOT HERE DESHAUN.

This is against Cover 3, the middle of the field won’t be open, and no matter how fantastic KeKe is, he can’t beat triple coverage. Watson was pressured and should have passed to the check down in Ryan Griffin, if you don’t trust RyGriff (petition to make this his new name) then he also had Lamar Miller on the check and release. 

Simply put, this is inexcusable. He holds onto the ball for far too long, which hinders his ability to get a clean pass off. But, Deshaun has gotten better, and these mistakes were much more common earlier on in the year and during his rookie year. 

Notice how Watson gets the ball out rapidly above. The Titans are in man coverage. Thomas and Coutee’s routes quickly clear out the right side, leaving Griffin wide open. From the second Watson sees the defense he knows Griffin will be free due to the route combination against man. Unfortunately, Griffin can’t reel in the pass.

Despite the incompletion, this play shows Watson’s increased willingness to get the ball out of his hands quickly.

Recently, I read Bruce Arians’ book The Quarterback Whisperer. One of the biggest takeaways I got from his work was that Arians always told his quarterbacks to look downfield first, then take the check down, no matter the down and distance. Arians would love Watson’s desire to make big plays. He can also appreciate the fact that Watson gets better week by week in taking his check downs when needed.

This next play is the furthest thing from a check down.

On 2nd and 8, Houston is up by four with five minutes left in the third quarter. O’Brien most likely wanted Watson to be safe with the ball and not take any risks to guarantee a win. 

This play has Will Fuller V sprinting down the field to open up the middle for Watson to throw for a first down and keep the clock ticking. But, Watson reads the defense and realizes the Dolphins are in Cover 2 man. If you’ve ever played Madden before you know that a post route can scorch that coverage.

So what does Watson do? He waits for the post to develop because he knows that Will Fuller V has the speed to beat nearly any cornerback. His deep ball is beautiful as it’s not to where Fuller V is, but to where he will be. This play shows a strong ability to do three things; read a defense, progress through all options, and immaculate arm strength. It’s also a testament to an improved offensive line that lets Watson fulfill his potential.

In the red zone, quarterbacks must be in attack mode. Watson does just that. He has the decision to pass to either Thomas on the fly-route or Hopkins on the wheel-route off the fake bubble screen. Initially, both receivers look open, which confuses Josh Norman. 

Note that the Redskins are in Cover 3 with HaHa Clinton Dix set to the right. This alignment forces Norman to help cover the left side seam.

Watson toys with Norman with a pump fake towards Thomas’ direction. That pump fake makes Norman think to cover the seam, which opens room for Watson to throw outside to Hopkins for a touchdown. Not only was the pass and catch amazing, but his ability to throw off one of the best cornerbacks in the game is superb. 

Watson has also gotten more comfortable with those around him, letting him know which players are a mismatch with opposing defenders.

Notice below that the Broncos are in man coverage, and Watson has the matchup he wants. The 6’2″ Josey Jewell who isn’t particularly nimble athletisism versus a 6’6″ Jordan Thomas with sure hands (who has turned into a significant red zone threat). Rookie vs. Rookie, who wins? 

Thomas wins. Thanks to Deshaun Watson, who knows the entire time that Thomas will score the touchdown (obvious by watching where his head turns).

Not only has Deshaun improved in the passing game, but he is also a lot smarter while running the ball. Remember, he injured his lung and ribs during the Cowboys OT thriller. Watson naturally was told to run less. 

Watson has been active with his legs despite the injury. Though, he now tends to slide more and runs only when he has to. 

Watson has also been more efficient because both the play calling and protection has been better. You can read an article about the line’s improvement here

Of course, we know that Watson also might be a magician. This play proves that.

How?!?

But he also has improved substantially to where he doesn’t need to be a magician to be a nightmare for every defensive coordinator in his way.

-Avery Duncan IG: @TexansFocus

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s