It isn't about Watt proving anything – they don't even give out participation trophies for preseason games – it's about him getting reps with a game-day adrenaline for him and his opponents, something that is impossible to get at practice. Watt might ...and more »
By Jerome Solomon, Houston Chronicle
August 5, 2018 Updated: August 5, 2018 3:04pm
Photo: Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle
Former Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson, left, talks to defensive end J.J. Watt (99) after practice during training camp at the Greenbrier Sports Performance Center on Sunday, Aug. 5, 2018, in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.
Former Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson, left, talks to...
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. VA. – It has been 10 months since J.J. Watt took a live snap in a football game.
The Texans have a meaningless game on Thursday at Kansas City. Watt won't play.
But if he has his way, he will see some action at some point this preseason. And now that he is fully recovered from a broken leg suffered against the Chiefs on Oct. 8, he should.
I'd guess he'll take the field for a series or two against the Cowboys in the preseason finale at NRG Stadium on August 30.
It isn't about Watt proving anything – they don't even give out participation trophies for preseason games – it's about him getting reps with a game-day adrenaline for him and his opponents, something that is impossible to get at practice.
Watt might be among the most intense practice players on the Texans, but we're talking about practice.
The last thing he wants is for his first real game action in almost a year to be against Tom Brady and the Patriots in the regular-season opener.
"At least in one (preseason game) I want to get at least a couple live reps," Watt said. "It doesn't need to be a lot. I think that it's important to at least see some live bullets before you go out there and have some guys flying at you for real."
Being overly protective of players can end up putting them at more risk of injury.
Think of it this way. In Week 1, Watt will line up across from Patriots' interior linemen who are in game shape and have played in three or four preseason games.
His ability to shed blockers to chase after Tom Brady is what we'll pay the most attention to, but slipping linemen and dodging falling bodies to protect himself is what is necessary to stay healthy. You don't get much of that in half-speed (if that) practices.
With the way Bill O'Brien keeps such information close to the vest, we'll just mostly speculate for the next few weeks, but odds are Watt will play this preseason.
Whitney Mercilus, who also went down against the Chiefs last season, is in a bit of a different situation, in that he plays mostly outside and his injury (torn pec) was to the upper body. He doesn't need to build up the confidence to have players around his legs as much as Watt does.
But Mercilus could be the most important player on the Texans' defense, so having him healthy and ready to go for the opener is a priority.
With that in mind, he was held out of Sunday's practice. He shouldn't see much action in the preseason.
The other significant question regarding playing time is what should the Texans do with quarterback Deshaun Watson.
The second-year QB is coming off a torn ACL.
Unlike Watt, he needs more than a few snaps of live action. Of course, that puts him at risk.
But it is what it is. Football is a game of risks, but quarterbacks are as protected as they have ever been.
While Watson isn't a rookie, he isn't even close to a finished product. He needs to play a good amount.
Tom Brady never sits out the preseason, and he has attempted 10,265 more passes than Watson has in his career.
Watson will likely play in each of the first three games, probably following the standard veteran quarterback script of a series or two in the opener, a couple more series in the second game and then at least a full half, possibly even the first series of the third quarter of the third game.
Because this is just his second training camp, Watson might even play in the fourth game against the Cowboys.
If he does it shouldn't be for long, but the Texans' meaningless preseason games aren't as meaningless this year.
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