HOUSTON (AP) — As coach Bill O'Brien prepared for his third season with Deshaun Watson he was asked what he likes best about his star quarterback.
O'Brien paused for a few seconds. And even after pondering the query for a bit he still couldn't land on just one quality he values most in Watson.
"There's a lot of good things," O'Brien said. "He's got really good poise. He's a smart guy. He's a very accurate passer. He throws a great deep ball. He knows our offense really well, works hard at it. He's just an awesome guy to coach."
O'Brien and the Texans are counting on Watson to take another step forward this year after he threw for 4,165 yards and 26 touchdowns last season to help the team win the AFC South title before losing to the Colts in the wild-card round. Watson started each game in 2018 after playing just seven games as a rookie before sustaining a season-ending knee injury.
Now that Watson, the 12th overall pick in the 2017 draft, is comfortable in O'Brien's offense, he's looking to fine-tune things he believes will help the team run smoother.
"The biggest thing now is being as detailed as I can," he said. "Knowing that each play matters, regardless of what quarter it's in, what down and distance. Being able to take advantage of the open plays, being able to take advantage of scoring touchdowns. Little things like that.
"Because in that fourth quarter, as you see in every NFL game, it's rare where you have a team that's blowing out teams," he continued. "Every week is a test and it comes down to that last drive or a two-minute situation."
Here are some things to watch for this season:
The Texans are focused on better protecting Watson after he was sacked an NFL-leading 62 times. He started every game last season but was hurt for a chunk of the schedule while dealing with a partially collapsed lung and broken ribs from taking hit after hit.
Houston addressed the issue by trading for Laremy Tunsil on Saturday, giving the team a franchise left tackle it hopes will keep Watson from taking so many hits this season. The young and talented Tunsil has already proven to be one of the top left tackles in the league in his short career and has started 44 games in three NFL seasons.
Tunsil, who was the 13th overall pick in the 2016 draft, joins a line that features center Nick Martin, a second-round pick in 2016, rookie first-round pick Tytus Howard at left guard.
Howard was a high school quarterback who became a lineman after growing into his 6-foot-5, 322-pound frame at Alabama State. The Texans value his versatility and have moved him around a lot throughout camp to see where he'll be most effective.
"He's a very versatile guy," O'Brien said. "But, remember, the other thing about Tytus, he's a rookie and he's really only played offense line for three years, I think it is. So, he's learning every day, but he's going to be a really good player."
Three-time Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt returns after a comeback season when he earned All-Pro honors with 61 tackles, led the AFC with 16 sacks, had 25 quarterback hits, 18 tackles for losses and forced a career-high seven fumbles, which tied for the most in the NFL. It was his fourth season with at least 15 sacks, which ranks second in NFL history behind Hall of Famer Reggie White, who had five.
His big season came after he'd played just eight games over the previous two years because of injuries, and Watt was eager to see what he'll be able to do after a healthy offseason.
"Last year I had an idea of what I wanted to accomplish and I hoped I could accomplish it, but I wasn't 100 percent sure because I hadn't really played in a couple of years," he said. "So, this year I have a lot of confidence going in. I have a lot of excitement, I have a lot of energy, I have a solid base where I know where I'm at."
DeAndre Hopkins ranked third in the NFL with a career-high 1,572 yards receiving last season. But he isn't worried about surpassing those numbers or setting any statistical goals for himself. The three-time Pro Bowler is only focused on one goal as he enters his seventh NFL season.
"Everybody who plays football should have their goal to win championships," he said. "If you don't, then there's no need to come to practice. I feel like that's the mindset of every football player. Not just mine."
Outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney missed all of training camp before being traded to Seattle on Saturday after he and the Texans couldn't agree to a long-term deal. His loss is a blow to a front featuring Watt that was among the best in the NFL last season. Now that he's gone, the Texans will look to fourth-year player Brennan Scarlett to step up and play a much bigger role this season.
The Texans showed a commitment to Scarlett last week when they signed him to a one-year, $3.75 million contract extension that will keep him in Houston through the 2020 season.
He was signed by the Texans as an undrafted free agent in 2016 and has appeared in 30 games with eight starts in the past three seasons. The 6-foot-4, 263-pound Scarlett finished with 18 tackles last season after having 26 tackles and two sacks, which were both career highs, in 2017.