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As Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett sputter, Tom Savage shows promise for Texans

All the months of endless chatter about Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett. And Tom Savage was standing there the entire time.

Through two mostly uninspiring examples of exhibition football, Savage has been more inspiring than his higher-ranked counterparts.


Hoyer and Mallett are a combined 24-of-33 for 232 yards and one touchdown in the preseason. Savage is 23-of-38 for 265 yards and a TD. With Mallett relegated to dropoffs and short slants Saturday and Hoyer struggling to ever feel a rhythm, Savage again stole the show in the second half during the Texans’ 14-10 defeat to Denver at NRG Stadium.

The second-year quarterback wasn’t close to perfect and a potential game-winning drive during the final two minutes was killed by incompletions and poor clock management. But the 2014 draft project continued to show the glimpses that have made him increasingly intriguing as the preseason has unfolded.

“You’re just never going to really know until he gets his shot,” Texans coach Bill O’Brien said. “And maybe he’ll get his shot at some point. And when he does, he’s just got to be ready to take advantage of it.”

O’Brien offered rare words of praise for Savage this week, saying a QB who went more than 1,000 days without playing a college game has made clear strides in Year Two. While O’Brien has consistently acknowledged the daily ebb and flow of his two possible starters, the demanding coach made clear that Savage has recaptured the Texans’ eye after a rough rookie year.

“It’s getting better,” O’Brien said. “Again, it’s hard. It’s very difficult when you’re a young quarterback in this league. It’s a hard thing. It takes a while to develop.”

O’Brien began his postgame press conference by declining to evaluate “any players.” Then he didn’t hesitate to highlight Savage for the second consecutive time that the coach has stood behind a microphone. The third-stringer has done "good things" and throws a nice ball, the QB guru said. With the Texans closer than ever to naming their 2015 starter, Savage is finally approaching the pro talent that convinced the organization he was worthy of the No. 135 overall pick of the 2014 draft.

“He’s a good passer,” O’Brien said. “And he’s improved a lot as a player in the year and change that he’s been here.”

The Texans need a real thrower as much as they need Arian Foster’s speedy return. Savage doesn’t have a shot to take the first snap in Week 1. But if the team’s season goes south, he could get a late look in 2015. And the Texans’ best-case scenario at QB this season is for either Hoyer or Mallett to hold down the job for all 16 games, all while Savage sets himself up for a third-year run at the No. 1 spot.

“It really has been fun just going out there and playing and being loose and not really trying to overthink,” said Savage, who was 15-of-24 Saturday for a game-high 168 yards and an 83.3 rating.

Hoyer, at best, is a two-year band-aid until the Texans find their true answer at quarterback. Mallett has had the offseason, OTAs, training camp and two preseason contests to steal the job. He threw for just 23 yards as the starter Saturday and continues to allow his inconsistency to erase random shining moments.

Savage is the Texans’ ideal long-term bet. But once the meaningless exhibitions are over, he’ll again be a third-stringer waiting for a real shot at the Texans' best job.



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Neil S. Schwartz

Email: neilsschwartz@gmail.com

Jonathan Feinsod

Email: jonathan@sffootball.net

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