Will the Texans break DeShaun Watson?

Houston Texans

Deshaun Watson has been better since Week 1, but if the Texans can’t protect him better they’re playing with fire.

Deshaun Watson didn’t look very good in his first game back from a torn ACL, completing half of his passes (17-for-34) for 176 yards with a touchdown and two turnovers. But he’s been better since topping 300 passing yards with multiple passing touchdowns while completing at least 60 percent of his passes in three straight games.

But the Texans have major offensive line issues, which were further exacerbated by starting right tackle Seantrel Henderson going down with an ankle injury in Week 1. His initial replacement Julie’n Davenport was benched last Sunday, after being penalized eight times in the first three games, and replaced by Kendall Lamm.

Watson has taken 17 sacks through four games, including seven against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 4, putting him on pace for 68 this season. The Texans allowed 54 sacks last year, with Watson taking 19 of those in the seven games he played..

According to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle Watson has also taken 43 hits (11 against the Colts), for a pace of 172 for the season. The Texans are allowing a sack on a league-worst 11.49 percent of their pass attempts.

Some of the sacks can be blamed on Watson’s internal clock, and his mobility forcing blockers to hold blocks while he moves around. But there’s no denying that he’s taking a ridiculous beating, even if head coach Bill O’Brien comes off as a little dismissive of the issue.

He’s a very tough guy,”“You know, some of it can be concerning, but it’s some of the design of the plays. That’s what we do. He’s got good physical strength. There’s certain things that we do not want him to take a hit on. There’s other things that we do that he loves to do, and we like to call them, and that’s part of the way he plays.

“I think he’s really smart about it for the most part when you look at how he deals with those plays. He gets his pads down or he ducks out of bounds. He’s a very, very smart runner. So that’s something we try to build around.

Based purely on being a willing and capable runner, Watson is going to have extra opportunities to be hit. There are always ways to be smarter in avoiding hits when he takes off running, but playing behind five turnstiles along the offensive line makes everything harder.

Next: The No. 1 reason each NFL team can be excited for 2018 season

The league record for sacks taken in a season is 76, by David Carr for the expansion Texans in 2002. Carr also took 68 sacks in 2005, which is the third highest single-season total in league history. Watson is on pace to tie that latter total right now, with no let up in sight against the Dallas Cowboys, Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars over the next three weeks.

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