Defending QB Deshaun Watson a mighty task for Chargers

COSTA MESA, CA (News4usonline) – The biggest worry for Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson when he goes up against a fierce Los Angeles Chargers pass rush on Sunday is staying upright. With Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa bringing the heat from the outside, Watson is going to be pressed to get the ball out of his hands fast and in a hurry. 

Should he be forced to get rid of the ball too quickly, Watson takes the risk of the ball finding its way into the hands of one of the Chargers ballhawks in the secondary instead of going into the mittens of DeAndre Hopkins and his other pass-catchers. This is what makes this AFC matchup one for football fans to look forward to. 

“They have three really good wide receivers, but obviously he’s a guy that you have to have great awareness of where he lines up and play accordingly,” Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said. 

Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa (99) celebrates a sack of Arizona Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen (3). Photo credit: Steven Baffo/News4usonline

One one hand, you have one of the most exciting young playmakers (Watson) in the game matching wits against a stout defense. On the other side, the old gunslinger (quarterback Philip Rivers) will be trying to outsmart and escape J.J. Watt and his friends to help the Chargers bounce back from their ugly road defeat to the Detroit Lions last week.  

The first thing that comes to mind about this contest is when and how often will Ingram and Bosa get to Watson? Ingram and Bosa are two of the best in the NFL in what they do. They know how to get to the quarterback. That should worry Houston Texans fans. 

It also should be a matter of priority for Houston coach Bill O’Brien and his coaches. In the last three years, including counting the first two games of the 2019 NFL season, Watson has been sacked a total of 91 times.

In 2018, Watson hit the turf 62 times. And just in the two games he’s played already this season, the third-year player from Clemson has been sacked 10 times. That’s 72 sacks in just 18 regular season games. The biggest question is not whether Watson can be THAT GUY who can eventually lead his team to the Super Bowl one day, but rather how long will he last? 

Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson in against the Washington Redskins on Nov. 18, 2019. Photo credit: Keith Allison/Wikimedia Commons

On the flip side of this coin, when he is not too busy getting turf green stuffed into his helmet, Watson has been a thrill to watch since he came into the league. He wowed the NFL in 2017 as a part-time starter, completing 61 percent of his passes for 1,669 yards and 19 touchdowns before he was lost to the season due to a knee injury he suffered. 

In 2018, Watson finished off where he started, passing for 4,165 yards and 26 touchdowns. 

But what makes Watson a more difficult player to defend is that added element of being able to run the football effectively should the situation calls for it. In 16 games last season, Watson rushed for 551 yards and five touchdowns. On paper, as well in reality, Watson presents a unique challenge to Bradley’s defense. 

The Chargers defense limited the Cleveland Browns to just 10 points as the team posted a 6-6 mark on the season. File Photo/ Credit: Mark Hammond for News4usonline

“He’s a dual-threat guy, so his ability…let’s just start with the run; he’s always a threat to run the ball,” Bradley said. “So, you have to account for him in the run game. Then in the passing game, he has some of the components of a really good quarterback in our minds as a defense-timing, accuracy, decision-making. He has those things. The accuracy on deep balls, on intermediate routes and he has great trust in the receiving corps. He truly is a dual-threat.” 

In the first game of the season, Watson showed his dual-threat talents, passing for 268 yards and three touchdowns and rushing the football four times for 40 yards and a score in a 30-28 defeat to the New Orleans Saints. Limiting Watson’s scrambles and runs might be the best way to defend him, Bradley said.  

“Well, there are six lanes when you’re rushing the quarterback and there are generally four rushers,” Bradley said. “You have to do some adjusting as far as that’s concerned. Whether you’re bringing pressure or adding extra guys into those lanes or make sure that your pass rush lanes, you have all those gaps accounted for. Every game, he takes off running. I think the best thing that we can do is try to contain him, have a good plan to contain him and try to take away that threat. If you do have good coverage downfield, that he doesn’t escape and get a first down on third down with his legs.”

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