HOUSTON -- Houston Texans rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson is expected to start his first NFL game Thursday night against the Cincinnati Bengals, according to The Houston Chronicle.
The Chronicle reported that Watson's injured right ankle held up fine during practice Tuesday, removing the only potential obstacle to having the first-round draft pick make his starting debut at Paul Brown Stadium as the replacement for veteran Tom Savage.
During the portion of practice open to reporters, Watson took every snap.
The Texans are going with Watson for multiple reasons, including his superior mobility and elusiveness while operating behind a porous offensive line.
Although Watson was sacked four times during a 29-7 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars and experienced some rough fundamental moments where he threw off his back foot, he did throw one touchdown pass and displayed an ability to escape pursuit.
Although the 0-1 AFC South franchise is poised to launch the Watson era, Texans head coach Bill O'Brien played it close to the vest Tuesday and declined to make it official and name a starting quarterback.
"I don't think there's a rule that says I have to publicly announce it," O'Brien said when asked if this was a potential game-time decision.
Unless Watson suffers a setback between now and kickoff, he's scheduled to start his first game since manufacturing a BCS national championship victory over Alabama with a game-winning touchdown pass.
"The health of any player is the first determinant in whether they play or not," O'Brien said of Watson, who didn't speak with reporters Tuesday.
After replacing Savage at halftime Sunday, Watson completed 12 of 23 passes for 102 yards, one touchdown and one interception for a 60.4 passer rating.
Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis is already convinced his defense will be competing against Watson.
"We're kind of planning on it being Deshaun," Lewis said during a conference call with Houston reporters. "Because if they made the change like they did at halftime, I would imagine it would be him coming forward here, at least this week."
The first-round draft pick, consensus All-America and national championship game-winner from Clemson completed 52.2 percent of his throws against Jacksonville and had a second interception nullified by a penalty. He rushed for 12 yards on two carries.
"He's a playmaker with good instincts and he's young," Texans quarterbacks coach Sean Ryan said. "He's going to make some mistakes, and it's on us to keep working with him and minimize his mistakes and get rid of them, not repeat them, and keep moving forward with him."
The Texans have started Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Mallett, T.J. Yates, Case Keenum, Brian Hoyer, Brandon Weeden, Brock Osweiler and Savage in O'Brien's time as head coach. Watson becomes the ninth different starting quarterback over the past four seasons.
O'Brien is hoping he won't continue to have a revolving door under center.
"I can tell you that we're pretty close to making a decision as to who's going to play," O'Brien said. "In this case, a lot of different factors go into it that aren't really in our control, maybe. I think that we'll make a good decision for the team.
"I try not to look too far into the future. It's definitely, obviously, for Thursday, but you're also saying you're going to try your best to stick with the decision."
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