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Deshaun Watson’s Star Power Shines Through in His NFL Preseason Debut

No, he’s not the starter yet, but he looks like he’ll be ready when the time comes

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Have you seen Deshaun Watson smile? I don’t mean just a cursory glance. Have you looked into his eyes? Have you been infected with Deshaun Watson’s irresistible joy? Watson’s smile is as contagious as a yawn. To root against him is to root against the human spirit.

“I want him on my team; I want him in my family,” Jon Gruden said of Watson before the draft. “I want to be around this guy.”

So do his opponents. Look how many Panthers fans wanted to high five him after he scored a touchdown on their team. (OK, a lot of them are probably Clemson fans, but still.)

The Panthers defeated the Texans 27-17 Wednesday night, but the score doesn’t matter – this game was the coal that officially ignited the engine of the Deshaun Watson hype train. Watson completed 15 of 25 passes for 179 yards and added 24 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Tom Savage finished 9-of-11 for 69 yards and led an efficient scoring drive with Houston’s first team, but he’s not anyone’s idea of a long-term torchbearer. Savage is on track to win the starting job to begin the season, but Watson’s star power is going to be difficult to outshine as the year progresses. If the Texans don’t start strong, fans will clamor for the magnetic, potentially franchise-altering quarterback. He may not be ready quite yet, but I'll bank on him rising to the occasion when the moment comes.

Week 1 of the preseason sits somewhere above completely meaningless and somewhere below Week 3 of the preseason, but Deshaun Watson is fun to watch. He flashed his mobility on a few runs, threw well on the move, and at one point threaded a third-and-long pass between two defenders in zone coverage. At halftime, he saved a litter of puppies from a fire across the street.

You can’t watch the Texans play without envisioning Deshaun Watson as a legitimate franchise quarterback someday, even if it’s not right now. He led two scoring drives, including a dink-and-dunk, 15-play, 75-yard march that culminated in his 15-yard rushing touchdown, making the quick, decisive short throws that don’t earn style points but are essential to operating an offense at the pro level. However, he did have a few moments where he looked lost, sailing some throws to open receivers, especially down the field, confirming pre-draft concerns about his accuracy. Even on plays where he wasn’t pressured and had his feet set, he sometimes just missed dudes. Though he didn’t get picked off this go-around, if he keeps shooting with the buckshot spread he displayed Wednesday, he’s going to get intercepted a lot. But like Jon Gruden, I don’t care about that stuff right now. I just want to be around the guy.

Watson’s well-documented accuracy issues flared up at times, but he showed enough potential to make Houston fans believe he could blossom as a starting quarterback. If he does, he’ll become the patron saint of the Texans organization.

Christian McCaffrey

Watson wasn’t the only hyped-up first-round pick to get his first NFL action on Wednesday, as the Panthers trotted out Christian McCaffrey for his first professional action.

The way watching Watson evokes a sense of stardom, watching Christian McCaffrey evokes visions of a surefire top-10 draft pick in fantasy next season. He flashed Sun God powers at Stanford, and in training camp he’s already made Luke Kuechly resemble a small child.

On Wednesday, McCaffrey showed patience, quick cuts, and the between-the-tackles power running that makes Panthers fans salivate.

McCaffrey will be fun out of the slot, and his ceiling is an all-purpose matchup nightmare with Le’Veon Bell–like versatility. He rushed the ball seven times for 33 yards, and if he can continue to effectively run the power sets Carolina likes, he’ll afford the Panthers a ton of creativity in their formations and offensive packages.

D'Onta Foreman

Foreman ran for over 2,000 yards and punched in 15 touchdowns last season for Texas, and resembled a human battering ram with a brilliant nose for finding the end zone, especially in short yardage situations. Against the Panthers, he ran for 76 yards on nine carries, converted a fourth down, and hurdled a Panthers defender seemingly just to prove that he could.

Foreman has the on-field talent necessary to carve out a role for himself this season, but he may have troubles elsewhere. He was arrested a few weeks ago and charged with marijuana possession and unlawful carrying of a weapon. Foreman’s attorney claimed that Foreman’s handgun was lawfully purchased, registered, and secured in the vehicle, and that the marijuana was in the possession of another passenger.