WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- Even before the Houston Texans traded up in the first round to draft Deshaun Watson, head coach Bill O'Brien said it is difficult for a rookie quarterback to start because of how challenging it is to learn a complex offense right away.
The challenge for a coach, O'Brien said, is knowing when the time is right to play that quarterback.
"I think, over time, it develops," O'Brien said. "You see it in practice. There's certain things that you think about that maybe somebody who doesn't coach wouldn't see it, but as a coach, you've been through it, you've experienced, hey, this is something maybe this guy's not ready at or, yes, he is ready. He just redirected a protection or checked a run or got us out of a bad play, put us into a better play.
"And then he did it in a game, and he was able to function in a game. Then it's his demeanor, it's his poise under pressure, his ability to come out here and go against a new defense. How did he handle that? It's all of those things."
O'Brien has emphasized the importance of starting a rookie when he is ready, and said while Watson is still a work in progress as an NFL quarterback, he has started to see Watson progress in those ways.
"There's times when he's been able to do that," O'Brien said of Watson. "That's what I mean by, for a rookie, I think he's ahead of where some rookies I've been around have been. I've seen him be able to do that. I think he needs to do it more consistently, but he works very hard to get it right. If he doesn't get it right away on the field, he goes into the meeting room and tries to fix it."
O'Brien has praised Watson a lot during training camp -- he is happy the rookie is progressing ahead of schedule -- but he has also repeatedly expressed his confidence in his starting quarterback, Tom Savage.
"A lot of these questions are about Deshaun [Watson], which I understand," O'Brien said. "He was a great college player and he's a rookie here, but Tom [Savage] does the same thing. And I think Deshaun learns a lot from how Tom prepares and how Tom learns and how he watches tape and comes out to practice ready to go and things like that. I think it's been very productive for both guys."