Watson shines in NFL debut with Texans
The Journal Staff
CHARLOTTE, N.C — Until Wednesday, there hadn’t been as many Clemson players on the field at Bank of America Stadium since the 2015 ACC Championship game.
With five former Tigers dotting the rosters of the visiting Houston Texans and one for the homestanding Carolina Panthers, the midweek exhibition game — the first of the season for both clubs — was quite a homecoming for Solid Orange Nation.
Quarterback Deshaun Watson, wide receiver Deandre Hopkins, defensive tackle Carlos Watkins, safety Marcus Gilchrist and defensive tackle D.J. Reader were suited up for the Texans, while linebacker Ben Boulware provided the Clemson presence for the Panthers.
Watson — as he did so many times while wearing orange – stole the show in a 27-17 Houston loss.
The greatest signal caller in Tiger history finished his NFL debut with a stat line that read 15-25-0 passing for 179 yards, along with three rushes for 24 yards and a 15-yard touchdown dash.
“Today was a good day to get my feet wet, to get out there, not just me, but all the rookies, and experience my first NFL game,” Watson said. “It was fun.”
Even more fun was hitting paydirt.
“Regardless of if it’s a scrimmage, practice, preseason game or regular season game, getting in the end zone is hard to do,” Watson said. “It felt good.”
Entering the game in the second quarter, he displayed the same kind of poise he demonstrated so often in Death Valley, and certainly made a case that he could not only be the Texans’ QB of the future, but their present as well.
Hopkins finished with two catches for 15 yards.
Watkins closed the night with one solo tackle and one assist, while Reader assisted on a takedown.
Gilchrist didn’t record a tackle, nor did Boulware.
Boulware got some special teams work early in the game but didn’t line up on defense until late in the contest.
“It was weird, especially after the game when I saw (Ben),” Watson said. “Going three years with him on the same team, seeing him on the opposite sideline was weird.”