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5 observations from Texans' season-opening loss

Deshaun Watson looks on before the game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on September 9, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts.
Deshaun Watson looks on before the game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on September 9, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (2018 Getty Images)

HOUSTON – Deshaun Watson looked rusty in Houston's season-opening loss to New England, committing two turnovers and failing to move the offense consistently in his return from knee surgery.

Now, the second-year quarterback must find a way to improve before Houston begins AFC South play on Sunday at Tennessee, where the Texans will be without right tackle Seantrel Henderson.

Coach Bill O'Brien says Henderson is out for the season with an ankle injury. O'Brien says Henderson, who was brought in this offseason to improve Houston's line, will have surgery on Tuesday.

O'Brien says for Watson to play better this week, the rest of the offense has to pitch in to help him.

But he did admit that Watson was a little rusty and that he has "to make better reads; better decisions" this week for the Texans to be successful.

Here are five observations from KPRC2's Adam Wexler:

1. Watson will not play this poorly again. The whole reason the excitement was warranted for Deshaun Watson after his brilliant but brief rookie season was the offense he led was exceptionally productive -- and that was with his mistakes and turnovers. Great quarterbacks have no concern for mistakes and are capable of making so many great plays, it makes it easy to overcome the mistakes, even when the mistakes are turnovers. His performance on Sunday was the worst since he became the starter. It was the first time in his career he did not complete more than half of his passes, and many on Sunday were not close. While I don’t see elite accuracy in Watson near-term future, I don’t expect many, if any, games where he is off that badly.

2. Watson played in just his eighth career game. Only four of those games have been played with wide receiver Will Fuller. Fuller is not an All-Pro and likely will not ever ascend to that level, but he makes a world of difference when he’s out there, especially with Watson’s ability to throw the deep ball. There was no deep threat on the field on Sunday against the Patriots, and it showed in the way New England was able to defend the Texans. The only two deep balls even thrown by Watson were to undrafted rookie free agent Vyncint Smith. The first was easily intercepted in the end zone and was thrown in to double coverage. The second was the end-of-the-game Hail Mary attempt that was knocked down well short of the end zone. Fuller’s health is extremely important to this offense. If healthy, he should develop into a more complete receiver, but the "if healthy" tag is now attached to him for the third-straight season since being drafted with their top pick in the 2016 draft.

3. Just 11 plays into the game, Seantrel Henderson went down with a significant leg injury. Rookie Martinas Rankin replaced him, second-year tackle Julien Davenport slid over from left tackle to right tackle and Rankin became the new blindside protector for Watson. I’d expect this tackle duo, along with the interior trio of Zach Fulton, Nick Martin and Senio Kelemete, to be the starters moving forward -- and I mean moving way forward. As in they could easily be the opening-day starters next year and the next year, too. Martin was drafted by the Texans in 2016, Davenport in 2017 and Rankin this past draft. Only Davenport wasn’t obviously expected to become a solid starter, though you could argue he’s already there with plenty of room for improvement. Kelemete and Fulton were signed this offseason in free agency and have solidified the interior. I’m not saying the Texans have fixed the O-line and no longer need to look to get better, but don’t be surprised if this group is together for a bit.

4. The Texans' front seven should be as formidable a group as any across the league. But they were anything but in the opener, especially the outside linebackers, Whitney Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney. The duo combined to play 134 of 150 defensive snaps, yet were nearly invisible on the stat sheet. Each had a pair of tackles and zero quarterback pressures or quarterback hits. Clowney acknowledged after the game he was frustrated by his performance, feeling like he had not played well. The Texans defense will fall far short of its goal and have limited success if this duo has any games that resemble this one in terms of disruption.

5. Ending on a positive note, Lamar Miller had his most productive rushing game since 2016 as he rushed for 98 yards on 20 carries. Granted the 31-yard rush he had boosted the yards per carry average from 3.5 to 4.9 yards per rush, those 31-yard bursts were few and far between in 2017. The overall rushing effort was strong, too, with Alfred Blue gaining 40 yards and a touchdown on his eight carries and Watson at 7.2 yards per pop on his five carries.