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Texans must play Tom Savage to start season

The Houston Texans have won the AFC South in each of the past two seasons, largely on the back of a suffocating defense. It hasn’t hurt that in that span, only one other divisional foe — the 2016 Tennessee Titans — can claim a winning record.

Houston is trying to take the leap from being a decent team with one obvious strength to a powerhouse that can compete with the New England Patriots in the AFC. As fate would have it, the Patriots and Texans got together on Saturday night for a contest at NRG Stadium, and while Houston walked away with a 27-23 win, there are greater storylines to hit.

The Texans selected Deshaun Watson with the 12th-overall pick in April’s draft, hoping to find the first true franchise quarterback in team history. Watson was brought in only a year after signing Brock Osweiler to a four-year, $672 million deal, one of the worst contracts in league history. With Osweiler and a 2018 second-round pick dealt to the Cleveland Browns, Houston went ahead this offseason with Watson and fourth-year veteran Tom Savage in competition for the starting gig.

After each had their good and bad moments in the first preseason game against the Carolina Panthers, the separation began to take place with New England in town. Savage started the game and went 8-of-9 for 98 yards and a touchdown, showing poise and accuracy. Perhaps most importantly, the former University of Pittsburgh star showcased an ability to run Bill O’Brien’s complicated offense, something Osweiler could never do.

When Watson entered the game, he struggled mightily. The rookie completed just 3-of-10 throws, albeit for 102 yards which included a 63-yard catch-and-carry from running back D’Onta Freeman.

Watson has the most promise of anybody on Houston’s depth chart, but he’s not ready. There are ample examples from the first two preseason games that demonstrate why Watson needs some time on the vine, whether it be rough accuracy or the ability to read through progressions.

The Texans aren’t winning the Super Bowl with Savage, which is why many will still yell for the higher upside in Watson. Those people are missing the obvious point. You won’t win the ring with Savage, but barring a miracle with Watson, you aren’t winning the division with him. Savage could get another AFC South championship for Houston, although Tennessee is going to pose a real threat.

Every Texans fan wants to see the new, shiny toy trotted out. It’s exciting, it’s the future, and it gives hope of greater things to come. Yet for Houston, it must adhere to the adage of good things coming to those who wait.

Pushing Watson onto the field would be a major mistake, one a good, contending team can’t afford to make.

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