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Rookie or veteran? Deshaun Watson or Tom Savage?

For Houston Texans coach Bill O’Brien, that’s the decision he faces in the coming days. He needs to figure out who will be his starting quarterback Thursday night against the Cincinnati Bengals.

On Monday, one day after Houston’s embarrassing 29-7 season-opening loss against the Jacksonville Jaguars, O’Brien hinted that he may be close to a decision, but kept his cards close to the vest.

“I think Tom plays very calmly,” O’Brien said when asked what he liked about each player. “I think he knows how to operate our offense. I didn’t see him have, when it came to Xs and Os, any mental mistakes. There are things he can do better and things I can do better to help him.”

“And then Deshaun went in there and made plays,” O’Brien continued. “He’s a playmaker. He checked us in and out of things, he’s got good instincts out on the field. So like I’ve said all along, I’ve said that Tom is our starter, and that’s the way it has been. We’ll see moving forward here, but I thought that both guys had some moments in the game that they did some good things. But we’ll see moving forward.”

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O’Brien has already watched and analyzed the tape from Sunday’s loss. Given his answer, he could be very close to making a decision, if he hasn’t already.

But in this case, it’s what O’Brien didn’t say that is most revealing.

If he were set on sticking with Savage, this would have been a perfect opportunity to reinforce his support for the four-year vet and eliminate any notion of a quarterback controversy.

Savage was named the starter early in the offseason but fell flat against the Jaguars, completing seven of 13 passes for only 62 yards. He also held on to the ball too long and got sacked six times while losing two fumbles. And despite having three career starts, he has yet to throw for a regular-season touchdown. He was benched at the start of the third quarter.

Watson was only marginally better, completing 12 of 23 attempts for 102 yards, one touchdown and one interception with one lost fumble. He was sacked four times, but added 16 yards on two carries and flashed the ability to extend plays. His first drive resulted in Houston’s only points of the day.

“I look at how they play on game day,” O’Brien said. “I look at what happened leading up to game day, how they practiced during the week, but mostly, how they play in the game when the lights are on.”

Breaking that down, it’s difficult to not see Watson getting the slight edge — especially when taking into account how O’Brien has gushed about Watson’s study habits, preparation and recall.

O’Brien indicated he had not spoken to general manager Rick Smith about the quarterback situation or received the final medical report from Sunday’s game. According to NFL Network, Watson is dealing with an ankle injury.

The team will practice Tuesday, and then hold another walkthrough Wednesday, which is also the travel day to Cincinnati.

“There was some good, and obviously, some bad, but a lot to build on and that’s what we’re here for,” O’Brien said. “It’s a long season. It’s a 16-game season and it’s a progress league. It’s about who can improve the fastest.”

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Follow Lorenzo Reyes on Twitter @LorenzoGReyes

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