On Monday O'Brien said he hadn't decided who will start against the Bengals yet. "You guys have to give me some time here," he said. "Look, I haven't even met with the players yet ... we're going to do what's best for the team."
O'Brien pulled Savage after he lost two fumbles — one that was returned for a touchdown — and threw for just 62 yards as the Jaguars built a 19-0 lead by halftime. Watson led the Texans to their only touchdown on his first drive, but lost a fumble and threw an interception after that as Houston failed to score again.
Houston's quarterback woes are the latest in years of problems at the position. Watson is the ninth quarterback to play for Houston in the past five years as the team has struggled to find a consistent signal caller.
They signed Brock Osweiler to a $72 million contract before last season, but he was benched late in the season and traded to Cleveland in March. Savage spent all of camp as Houston's starter despite the team trading up 13 spots to draft Watson with the 12th overall pick in this year's draft.
Watson, who led Clemson to a national title last season, was 12 of 23 for 102 yards and had two carries for 16 yards on Sunday. O'Brien was asked to evaluate the play of both quarterbacks. "Tom plays very calmly," O'Brien said. "I think he knows how to operate our offense. I didn't see him have, when it came to X's and O's, any mental mistakes. There are things that he can do better, things that I can do better to help him."
Then he moved on to Watson. "Deshaun went in there and made some plays," he said. "Deshaun's a playmaker. He can make plays with his feet. He knows what to do. He checked us in and out of plays. He has good instincts out on the field."
O'Brien was asked if he wished he would have given Watson more snaps with the first team in camp and this week in practice so he could have built a better rapport with DeAndre Hopkins. O'Brien said that Watson got plenty of work with the first team and that it wouldn't have mattered if he got more work since Hopkins was out with a thumb injury for most of camp.
"We make decisions in the best interest of the team," O'Brien said. "Sometimes those decisions don't work. That's why you have to go back, see what you did wrong, analyze it, figure it out pretty quickly."
Whether Watson or Savage starts on Thursday, the Texans will have to find a way to protect the quarterback better. The line was terrible on Saturday, giving up 10 sacks, without veteran left tackle Duane Brown, who is holding out. It was also the first career game for center Nick Martin, who missed all of his rookie season in 2016 with an injury.
"There's a lot of different things that we can do from a scheme point," O'Brien said. "There's a lot of different things that the players need to do from a playing standpoint. Everybody in that room in there needs to improve."
O'Brien said he'll evaluate many things in deciding who to start against the Bengals, but that one thing carries more weight than the others. "I look at what happened leading up to game day, how they practiced during the week, but mostly how they play in the game when the lights are on," he said.
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