Deshaun Watson has been a star since his rookie season in 2017. Yet fresh off the best performance of his NFL career, the Houston Texans quarterback has been making headlines for what he’s been doing off the field. Specifically, what’s he been doing after games lately.
In the last two weeks, Watson has been everyone’s favorite postgame press conference. Starting after a loss to the Panthers and continuing the next week following a win over the Falcons, Watson has faced questions from reporters about the defensive coverages he saw. He responded in a similar fashion both times: with thorough, informative answers that we don’t often see in sports.
After a 16-10 loss to the Panthers, Watson explained why he struggled against their defense.
In Week 4, Watson only threw for 160 yards, had no touchdowns, and was sacked six times. The third-year quarterback was asked by The Athletic’s Aaron Reiss if the Texans could have done more to create opportunities downfield with the coverage the Panthers were giving them.
In his response, Watson gave one of the smartest breakdowns, complete with hand gestures, of a Cover 4 defense you’ll ever hear:
Deshaun Watson explains Carolina's defense in 66 seconds. pic.twitter.com/8Fn4OAKHk3— Rivers McCown (@riversmccown) September 29, 2019
Watson: Do you know what coverage they were playing? I’m just asking. It’s Cover 4, so what the safeties are doing, they’re playing deep, and they’re guarding No. 2. The corners sink, and they trap [No.] 2. So what they’re doing is keeping everything in front, the linebackers are playing anything that crosses.
[Luke] Kuechly is playing the middle. He stops everything that crosses the middle. He jumps everything that — and the safety is charging No. 2. So if the safeties are playing low, then we can’t take that. We have to hit double moves. We did the post, because [Eric] Reid stepped up on 2, with the out [route], over the top, I didn’t hit that. Same thing with [DeAndre] Hop[kins] in route — safety jumped up, he went vertical, I didn’t hit it. That was the only two. After that, they played back, Cover 2, 6, bust, which is safety Reid comes in between Kuechly, the outside linebacker plays deep, I gotta get rid of the ball.
Here’s the play Watson was talking about when he overthrew Hopkins:
And a better angle of Hopkins’ route:
It’s just like Watson said: He had a chance to hit Hopkins downfield when a safety dropped, but he just overshot him.
Let’s make something perfectly clear here — this isn’t an example of Watson dunking on a reporter, or trying to big-time him by expounding on a somewhat complicated defensive scheme. This is the quarterback recognizing that to understand why Houston couldn’t capitalize on the deep ball more, you have to grasp the type of defense the Texans were looking at.
So instead of giving a generic or cliched response, Watson went in-depth to get that point across. Reiss even thanked Watson on Twitter for giving such a detailed description, and added that he realizes he knows way less than Watson when it comes to coverages.
Watson’s lengthy explanation could have come across as a bit defensive since it was after a loss, but it was obvious he was just trying to provide context to answer Reiss’ question.
Watson did the same in his postgame presser after a big win over the Atlanta, too.
In the Texans’ 53-32 win over the Falcons, Watson threw for a career-high 426 yards, added five touchdowns, and had a perfect passer rating. Afterward, reporter Jake Asman asked Watson about Atlanta’s defense, and specifically, how it was able to open up receiver Will Fuller, who caught 14 passes from Watson for 217 yards and three touchdowns.
Watson: Yeah, they play a lot of man [coverage], different variations of man. They play a lot of diamond front, which diamond front is: five across, the center’s head up, the two guards are covered up, you got the two wide ends with Vic Beasley and [Takkarist McKinley]. And then you have the linebacker, Deion [Jones]. Sometimes they play man, sometimes they drop out and play Tampa. They do a little blitz zone, they try to do it — their pressure in empty was to bring the star, press him, and cap the safety. But I just threw hot both times.
One time, Hop[kins] was there, and he didn’t recognize that I told him ‘break out hot’ and he kept running his seam route, so I just took it up the middle. And then different blitz-zone packages. They play Cover 6, zone it off. And then they played Diamond 2 and popped out. So they did a lot of different things. Low in the red zone, they play we call it ‘zero rat,’ where it’s there’s no safety in the middle. And that ‘rat’ defender, which is 37 [Ricardo Allen] double [teamed] Hop[kins], so it leaves everyone else one-on-one.
And so that’s why [Darren] Fells and Will was able to connect and win, because it was just one-on-one matchups. They did a little other stuff, but then zone-read package they made sure they contained me and not let me pull it. So we just locked in on each and every play and we tried to make sure that we knew exactly what they were doing.
We should all take a minute to appreciate Watson’s ability to rattle off all that after playing an entire game. It’s really damn impressive!
Watson was pretty on the money with his analysis, too. Here’s a good example of Watson being able to find Fuller one-on-one downfield, with this 33-yard touchdown in the second quarter:
.@DeshaunWatson and @Will_Fuller7 connect on the TD strike for the second time today! #ATLvsHOU— NFL (@NFL) October 6, 2019
: NFL app // Yahoo Sports app
Watch free on mobile: https://t.co/d6meepU6Nz pic.twitter.com/sAPSA5o3Ih
The Falcons had double-teammed Hopkins (though this time it wasn’t Allen). That left Fuller open as he crossed the field and ran his route to the end zone.
Watson isn’t the first sports figure to do this, but it’s a trend we can all get on board with.
In the past couple of years, we’ve seen more athletes and coaches give comprehensive Xs and Os summaries. LeBron James remembered nearly two minutes of a game almost perfectly in the 2018 NBA playoffs:
Before the 2019-20 season, the Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns sounded off on passing from the top of the key vs. in the lanes during a media availability:
Karl-Anthony Towns explaining the difference between passing from the top compared to on the block.— Kyle Ratke (@Kyle_Ratke) October 7, 2019
This is pretty awesome and rare from a media availability. KAT gets into the X's & O's. pic.twitter.com/hSa0DWltGE
And he can recall random playcalls he made in certain games, too:
Rams HC Sean McVay literally remembers every play of his coaching career pic.twitter.com/r9gC2mcajM— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) September 13, 2018
Who doesn’t love that?
Hopefully, Watson continues to do this on a weekly basis.
He isn’t trying to prove that he knows more than the media (which he obviously does!). Instead, Watson is giving us answers that provide actual insight into the hard work that goes into gameplanning and execution on offense. And teaching non-players more about Xs and Os is fun, too. It helps makes all of us smarter.
It’s pretty rare to see NFL players go into such specifics like this, so let’s all just enjoy when we get to hear them — and hope that we can hear them more regularly.