The Houston Texans come to Seattle this weekend with a 3-3 record and one of the league's most promising young stars in rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson. Coming off a bye, the Watson and the Texans are looking for a rarity for any Seahawks opponent—a win at CenturyLink Field—while the Seahawks are hoping to build off a three-game winning streak that has them sitting at 4-2. To find out more about Seattle's Week 8 opponent, we reached out to HoustonTexans.com's Deepi Sidhu with five questions about the Texans. You can follow Deepi on twitter here.
Q. We'll start with the obvious. Just how impressive has rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson been since taking over the starting job? Obviously a team has high hopes in a first-round pick, but was anyone expecting this much, this soon?
Sidhu: Of course, everyone tempered their expectations of Watson early on, especially when Tom Savage earned the starting job for Week 1. Watson improved noticeably throughout OTAs and minicamp, but there was still a learning curve with O'Brien's offense. When Watson was named the starter for the Texans Week 2 game at Cincinnati, it was a short week (Thursday Night Football) and he would be without all three starting tight ends as well as two wide receivers in Will Fuller V and Bruce Ellington. Watson made some incredible plays in that win, including a 49-yard touchdown scramble. His ability to escape defenders and buy time for receivers has opened up the offense in a way that no one expected. Head coach Bill O'Brien has adapted the offense to take advantage of Watson's skillset as a playmaker.
Watson is breaking records every week and it's certainly been fun to watch. The Texans have scored 30 or more points in four straight games after struggling on offense last year. Watson is tied for first among all quarterbacks with 17 total touchdowns. Watson has leadership skills and a charisma that everyone gravitates to and he seems to be getting better every week.
Q. Of course, for a quarterback to have success, he needs capable targets, and from afar it looks like DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller V have been just that. How big have those two been to Houston's offensive success?
Sidhu: DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller V are so different and yet so important to have on the field together. Hopkins can win nearly any 1-on-1 matchup has a tremendous catch radius. Just throw the ball in his vicinity and he can make a play. He's definitely the No. 1 target. Meanwhile, Fuller helps Watson stretch the field. His speed and big-playmaking ability are what the Texans drafted him in the first round for last year. Fuller just returned to the lineup in Week 4, but has scored five touchdown on just 8 total catches in his three games this year. Both Hopkins and Fuller combine for 11 of the Texans 15 receiving touchdowns and are huge in the red zone. Houston is currently 1st in the AFC in red zone percentage (65%) and a lot of that rests on Watson, Fuller and Hopkins.
Q. Obviously losing J.J. Watt is a big blow, but the Texans have still done some good things on defense. What has stood out about Houston's defense through six games?
Sidhu: The Texans 2017 defense is surprisingly not that unlike the 2016 defense through six games in several statistical categories (yards per game, points per game, third down percentage, and sacks). Obviously, they had to play without Watt last season but still managed to finish first in the NFL. This year, they will have to adjust to playing without two of their best pass rushers, Watt and Whitney Mercilus.
The Texans defense has more than doubled its interceptions this year (7 through the first six games vs. only 3 last year). Also, with the offense off to fast starts and putting nearly 30 points per game, the defense isn't under as much pressure to play from behind. This week, they should also get cornerback Kevin Johnson back which will be a huge asset for that secondary.
Q. What are the chances that Duane Brown plays/starts this week, and when he does return, what will having him back at left tackle do for the offense?
Sidhu: Bill O'Brien seemed very optimistic that Brown would return to the starting lineup this week. Chris Clark was filling in at left tackle for Brown, but he suffered a calf injury in Week 6 against Cleveland and has not been able to practice. Brown is an All-Pro and the most veteran player for the Texans. His return is huge for the O-line, but even more important for rookie Deshaun Watson and keeping him upright.
Q. With a rookie quarterback facing a good defense in the notoriously loud CenturyLink Field, how big of an emphasis has crowd noise been this week?
Sidhu: Seattle is known for its loud stadium and that has certainly been a topic around NRG Stadium this week. Bill O'Brien has cranked up the music at practice to try and simulate a noisy environment. For Watson, his experience playing in big collegiate games will certainly help him. Watson said the loudest games he ever played at were his freshman and sophomore year at Florida State. He's learned that communication will be key. If they can't hear each other, they will have to find ways to make sure they are all on the same page for each play.
Take a look back through history at the Seahawks' matchups against the Texans as the two teams ready to face off during Week 8 at CenturyLink Field.