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Tom Savage performing like a preseason All-Pro for Texans

After six practices at the Texans' training camp, something has become crystal clear about the quarterback situation. Rookie Deshaun Watson is helping to bring out the best in Tom Savage, and Savage is helping to bring out the best in Watson.

Savage is the starter in camp for the first time in his four-year career. Watching Watson improve almost daily is having a positive impact on Savage, who has been Tom Terrific, according to coaches and players.

They say Savage is in command of the offense, is confident in his ability to make every throw and is comfortable making adjustments. Most importantly, he has been protecting the ball.

Nothing gets a QB on Bill O'Brien's bad side more than interceptions, whether it's in practice or games. Just ask Brock Osweiler, who threw 16 last season and three more in the playoffs.

"The goal is to keep feeling more and more comfortable with the guys, distribute the ball to the playmakers and protect it," Savage said after practice Tuesday. "I protected the ball - that's the No. 1 goal."

Not only does Savage know O'Brien's offense inside and out, but he also appreciates the tough-love coaching.

Watson, who's feeling his way in his first camp, keeps getting better. As he figures out the system and understands what the coaches want from him, he'll become more sure of himself.

Each day, Watson does something special that gets everyone's attention.

Having to compete for a starting job for the first time since his freshman year at Clemson is keeping Watson on his toes, mentally and physically.

Watson is learning what Savage already knows, that the way to O'Brien's heart is to protect the ball.

"If you just look at our team and the defense we have, that's just a no-brainer," Savage said. "If you can protect the ball, it'll lead to victories."

Savage and receiver DeAndre Hopkins have been outstanding.

"We've completed almost every ball he's thrown out here," Hopkins said. "I feel better than I ever have, and I'm catching the ball better than I've ever caught it. Tom has a lot to do with that."

Hopkins has a message for fans and media who don't have confidence in Savage, who has been injured in each of his first three seasons. He says wait until you see them together.

"I think I've played with more quarterbacks than any receiver in NFL history," Hopkins said about the 13 QBs he played with in his four seasons. "I think I should be a good judge to say if a quarterback's going to be good."

And Savage gets Hopkins' endorsement.

O'Brien likes how Savage and Hopkins are putting in so many hours on and off the field to build the kind of relationship that translates to sustained success.

"They're coming out here early, and they're staying after practice," O'Brien said. "I saw them out here on their off day - not actually doing anything physically but talking about the route (and) watching film together.

"They get along real well. They believe in each other. They kind of understand what we're trying to do, relative to them. It's been a good camp for them so far, and it has to keep going."

Savage is still learning how to play his position. He's learning what O'Brien and quarterbacks coach Sean Ryan want from him as they try to improve a passing game last season that ranged from mediocre to awful.

Savage is in the last year of his contract. He has a chance to make millions.

"It's a huge opportunity, but my main goal is to win," he said. "I'm not focused on anything else."

The Texans would like to be more successful making big plays down the field. Savage has talented targets like Hopkins, Will Fuller and Braxton Miller.

"We have to put points on the board, and that's what I'm trying to work on with these guys the most," he said. "(Kicker) Nick (Novak) did a great job last year, and no offense to him, but we've got to score points."

The Texans haven't been known as a touchdown machine, but scoring more is imperative if they want to win the AFC South for a third consecutive season.

"It's about preparation and being on the same page," Savage said. "You have to sit with the receivers and talk and look at the different windows the defense is giving us.

"It's knowing when to take your shots and when not to. We've got some big-play receivers, and there'll be some opportunities where we can chunk the ball down the field. You have to be smart with the ball and know when to take those shots and when to check it down."

Savage knows what to do. He's got to stay healthy for a chance to pull it off, not to mention keeping Watson behind him.



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Neil S. Schwartz

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Jonathan Feinsod

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