Former Pitt quarterback Tom Savage had a tough weekend in Houston, as he started under center for the Texans and faced an onslaught from the Jacksonville Jaguars in a 29-7 beatdown.
Savage absorbed six sacks in one half of football, fumbling twice as a result. He lost both fumbles, and one of them was returned 53 yards by Dante Fowler Jr. for a touchdown. That put the Jaguars up 19-0 heading into halftime in an AFC South game that got ugly fast for the Texans.
The NRG Stadium crowd could be heard booing Savage throughout the first half, notably after he was sacked by Calais Campbell and after Fowler’s touchdown. He was benched at halftime, and the crowd cheered as rookie Deshaun Watson took the field in his place.
When all was said and done, Savage could only muster 62 yards behind a porous Texans offensive line missing Duane Brown. Watson fared a bit better, finding the end zone once but also throwing a pick. He accounted for 102 passing yards, averaging just 4.4 yards per attempt. Of course, that was only a slight downgrade from Savage’s 4.8.
During his postgame press conference, Texans head coach Bill O’Brien was asked if Watson would be his starter moving forward. He didn’t commit to either quarterback but noted that Watson’s mobility was a factor in his decision Sunday.
“The decision to go with Deshaun … had more to do with could we find a spark, could we find somebody that could maybe make a play, that could escape the pocket,” O’Brien said.
“I thought that Tom really hung in there and played very tough,” he added. “But we had a hard time protecting him, so I just made the decision to go with Deshaun.”
While O’Brien’s comments provided little clarity on who would be starting under center for the Texans against the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday, his unwillingness to commit certainly indicated that Savage’s foothold on the starting job had crumbled.
That much was confirmed on Monday night, when Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported that Watson will start despite being limited in practice earlier in the day with an ankle injury, per the team’s official site.
Unfortunately for Savage, Watson appears to be the better fit for the Texans right now, as their offensive line doesn’t appear poised to make any quantum leaps forward with Brown in the midst of a holdout. That alone necessitates a more mobile quarterback, but there are additional issues.
The team also lost receiver Bruce Ellington and tight ends C.J. Fiedorowicz and Ryan Griffin to concussions Sunday. None of them participated in practice Monday, and it’s unlikely they’ll clear the league’s protocol in time for this week’s game.
Taking that into account, it seems unlikely that the Texans will have much success passing against the Bengals, who ranked 11th in the NFL against the pass in 2016. However, Cincinnati had a tougher time defending the run, coming in at 21st in the league.
Considering Savage has never been known for his mobility, it only makes sense that Watson will take the field Thursday. But it has to be a disheartening blow for Savage and his fans after a long wait and some solid outings in the preseason.