Deshaun Watson set to make first career start Thursday

by - Staff Writer -
Deshaun Watson looks primed to start his first career NFL game Thursday. (USA TODAY Sports-Jeremy Brevard)

Just about everybody but Houston coach Bill O'Brien has confirmed Deshaun Watson will make his first start Thursday at Cincinnati (8:30 p.m., NFL Network).

The career milestone also happens to fall on Watson's 22nd birthday.

Despite reports of an ankle injury, Watson was listed as a full participant in Tuesday's practice and reportedly took every snap with the first-team offense during the media viewing period.

While Watson hasn't officially been named the starter, the Bengals are preparing for him as such.

"We're kind of planning on it being Deshaun because if they made the change like they did at halftime, I would imagine it would be him coming forward here, at least this week," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said, per ESPN.

Watson stepped in for Tom Savage and made an immediate impact for the Texans last week, leading a 14-play and 75-yard touchdown drive to cut the Jacksonville lead to 19-7 Sunday.

Facing constant pressure from a stout Jaguars D-line, the rest of Watson's first outing didn't go as well in the 26-7 loss, completing 12-of-23 passes for 102 yards and accounting for two turnovers (fumble and interception). Houston gave up a league-worst 10 sacks and 11 QB hits in week one.

After seeing a lackluster opener from Savage, Watson's ability to change a game is something O'Brien recognizes.

“Deshaun’s a playmaker,” O’Brien told reporters. “He can make plays with his feet. He knows what to do. He checked us in and out of plays. He has good instincts out on the field.”

O'Brien has acquired a reputation for shuffling quarterbacks, so the Texans QB-1 role could very well be up for grabs by the series. He told NFL Network that the first priority is finding the right guy for Thursday's matchup, but he would like to "stick with" that pick going forward.

Savage said he's preparing to start as like any week, but O'Brien doesn't owe him or Watson a decision early.

"It's a team game," Savage said. "As long as we win, that's the most important thing. Obviously I want to be out there. I'm not waiting to have that conversation. I don't think he owes either of us an explanation. We just have to be ready and that's called being a professional."

Watson says his mindset won't be different this week from any.

"Just the same mentality," Watson said Sunday. "Go out and be the best player I can be and the best teammate I can be."

A different level, for sure, but Watson will look to have a winning night similar to his college starting debut, where he threw six touchdown passes with one interception versus North Carolina in 2014.

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