Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) is sacked by Carolina Panthers cornerback Javien Elliott (23) during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)

The question comes with every sack, every hit and every grimace as Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson slowly pulls himself up from the field: How much more punishment can he take?

It’s troubling to watch the Texans’ franchise quarterback serve as a human punching bag every game. But what’s also troubling or maybe insulting is the message from the team that we are not seeing. What we are seeing each week is an offensive line that is unable to protect the quarterback.

“I’m always concerned when everybody gets hit, to be honest with you,” Texans coach Bill O’Brien said when asked if he is concerned with the hits and sacks Watson is taking.  “We’re just going to work hard to get better, we’re going to work hard to improve.”

Where is the urgency? The Texans seemed to understand the importance when they pulled off a trade right before the season that brought in left tackle Laremy Tunsil to protect Watson’s blindside and to improve the reputation of an offensive line that was clearly seen as one of the worst in the NFL.

But four games into the season the Texans’ front-five may actually be worse than last season when it allowed a season-high 62 sacks on Watson. After giving up six sacks and allowing Watson to be hit 10 times during the loss to Carolina recently, Watson has been sacked 18 times in the first four games. At this rate he is on pace to be sacked 72 times this season.

But what is interesting is at least in front of the media, Watson continues to praise his offensive line. He does seem to hold the ball a tad bit long, looking for big play instead of sometimes settling for the shorter routes, but it’s also obvious that he has no time back there.

“That’s me, I’ve got to check the ball down, take what they give us,” Watson said.

O’Brien’s answer on how to improve the pass blocking seems to be to continue pushing the guys he has instead of going out to find better players.

“Oh, we can do a lot,” O’Brien said when asked how he can better protect his quarterback. “We all need to work hard to get better.”

I've been with The Defender since August 2019. I'm a long-time sportswriter who has covered everything from college sports to the Texans and Rockets during my 16 years of living in the Houston market....