BALTIMORE (AP) — Deshaun Watson and Lamar Jackson starred three years ago in one of the more meaningful and memorable games of that college football season.
This weekend, the NFL gets to stage the show.
Watson and the Houston Texans will travel to Baltimore for a matchup with Lamar Jackson and the Ravens featuring two of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the league, both of whom are under 25, no less. The pass-run threat posed by each player already makes for good theater, but what’s more, the Texans (6-3) and Ravens (7-2) have emerged as two of the strongest challengers to defending champion New England in the AFC. The Ravens beat the Patriots two weeks ago, after all.
When Watson was at Clemson and Jackson was with Louisville in 2016, the ACC foes met in a midseason classic of two top-five teams in the Associated Press poll. Behind five touchdown passes and 397 yards of offense from Watson, Clemson won 42-36 despite a total of 457 yards and three touchdowns by Jackson.
Jackson won the Heisman Trophy that year, beating out Watson, who took the ultimate prize when the Tigers won the national championship. Watson was the 12th overall pick in the 2017 draft, and Jackson went with the 32nd overall selection in 2018. After overcoming some early-career obstacles, Watson with a torn ACL in his rookie year and Jackson with the doubts that his slithery style would translate from college to pro, they’re both well on their way to becoming two of the best in the game at their much-scrutinized position.
Watson has totaled 2,711 yards and 23 touchdowns. Jackson has accounted for 2,738 yards and 21 touchdowns.
Though they’re mutual admirers, this matchup on Sunday doesn’t mean they’ll be trying to outdo the other. There’s an opposing defense to maneuver against. What the other one does on the field has no relevance to what they do when it’s their turn.
“I can’t control what they’re doing on their side or what Lamar’s got going on,” Watson said this week.
Jackson has captured plenty of attention since becoming the full-fledged face of the franchise this fall. His spin move during a 47-yard touchdown run last week in a win over Cincinnati was an instant pick for the NFL’s highlight film for 2019.
“I’m a proud quarterback, proud friend,” Watson said. “All the criticism he was getting when he was coming out, he’s definitely a guy I’ve always encouraged. He’s doing everything all the naysayers said he couldn’t do and even more so. His career is very, very bright.”
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