The Houston Texans suffered some bad luck on Thursday, as rookie sensation Deshaun Watson went down with a season-ending ACL injury during practice, according to Mike Garafolo and Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.
The injury means that former Pitt quarterback Tom Savage will start under center this Sunday, when the Texans host the Indianapolis Colts in an AFC South matchup. He’ll be backed up by newly signed quarterback Matt McGloin, per Rapoport.
Savage was infamously benched after just one half of football when the Texans played the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 1. In that memorable game, he lost 33 yards on six sacks and only accounted for 62 yards on seven completed passes behind a porous offensive line. He didn’t throw any interceptions but turned the ball over twice on fumbles, and the Texans were down 19-0 when he came out at halftime.
Despite their 3-4 record, the Texans have looked impressive with Watson under center, as they prevailed in winnable games against the Cincinnati Bengals, Tennessee Titans and Cleveland Browns and held their own against serious contenders like the New England Patriots, Kansas City Chiefs and Seattle Seahawks.
For his part, Watson looked like a legitimate contender for Rookie of the Year honors, as he already had 19 passing touchdowns, two rushing touchdowns and 1,968 total yards in seven games. His absence seems likely to change the trajectory of the Texans’ season, and he’ll clearly be a tough act for Savage to follow.
In addition to that, the Texans’ offensive line has continued to struggle, as the team ranks third in the league in sacks allowed, with 26. Given that particular statistic, it’s hard to imagine a quarterback as admittedly immobile as Savage coming close to matching Watson’s success behind a line like that. But there is some good news for fans of Savage and the Texans.
Savage’s first start since Week 1 will come against the Colts, and they haven’t excelled at pressuring opposing quarterbacks or defending the pass this season. In fact, they rank 20th in the league in sacks, with 16 in eight games, and they rank second to last in the league in pass defense, giving up 290 yards per game through the air.
For comparison, the last time we saw Savage, he was up against the top pass defense in the NFL in the Jaguars. Through seven games, they’ve allowed just four passing touchdowns, amassed a league-leading 33 sacks, given up just 162 passing yards per game and are tied for third in the league with 10 interceptions.
Savage’s performance against the Jags also looked a lot worse than it was at the time, as they had just logged a 3-13 season in 2016 and were expected to be just as bad back in September. However, that hasn’t been the case, as they’ve gone 4-3 thus far and appear to be the strongest team in the AFC South.
With all that in mind, Savage has a great opportunity in front of him, as he’ll face a reeling 2-6 division opponent at home on Sunday. If all goes well, he should be able to get into a rhythm and perhaps carry that over against tougher opponents in the weeks to come.