March 17, 2018

Player Spotlight: J.J. Watt

WattFingerWag1This week in Player Spotlight, we take a look at a player that is a one man army on defense. He represents all that you would want in a player with size, speed, power and unnatural athleticism. This player is so revered that he practically needs to be double teamed every single play because when you try to handle him one on one he will most certainly make you pay. The player in the spotlight this week in none other than your reigning Defensive Player of the Year, J.J. Watt.

When the 2011 NFL draft unfolded, no one truly knew what newly acquired defensive coordinator Wade Phillips would want as his first pick. There were rumors that he wanted Aldon Smith, but we recently found out that General Manager Rick Smith had a trade in place to get Patrick Peterson. Most fans had figured it would be a defensive player but less and less fans knew exactly what position would fall to them. Once the Arizona Cardinals took Patrick Peterson with the fifth overall pick, the next player on the list was Aldon Smith. Two picks later the San Francisco 49ers picked Aldon Smith with the seventh overall pick. At this point there were still some great name players on the board that most Texans’ fans were clamoring for. The players that were still available at this point were Nick Fairley, Robert Quinn, Phil Taylor and Cameron Jordan. Naturally, we all wanted the big nose tackle in Phil Taylor, but the problem was that Phillips didn’t use a big nose tackle in his 3-4 scheme. Nick Fairley was there, but maturity and motivational issues surrounded him so it would be a shock if he was picked. Robert Quinn seemed like he could be the pick going from a defensive end to a stand up outside linebacker, but it was said that he had a heart condition. There was even a chance that Cameron Jordan could be picked seeing how he played in a 3-4 scheme when he was in college. All of these players had a potential chance at pick number eleven, but no one was prepared for what the Texans had in store.

With the eleventh pick of the 2011 NFL draft, the Houston Texans took J.J. Watt, a defensive end out of Wisconsin. When the pick was selected, it was booed, others stunned, shocked and some just didn’t know what to think or say. No one had done any study on Watt and no one recognized him mainly because he wasn’t a household name. Watt was considered a try hard player with great gifts in size and athletic ability, but he was a virtual unknown to most, if not all, Texans fans. My first thought was “Huh? Who is this dude?” Then anger and frustration came over me as a fan because I felt like most fans did at the time, that this player and that player, etc., etc. were still on the board and we didn’t get them. At the time, it was a forgettable moment due to ignorance and not knowing what we had in Watt.

Throughout off season workouts, there were players that came forward and offered some insight on Watt. Eric Winston was one of the players that spoke highly about Watt saying that he was very good with his hands, had power and could turn out to be very good. Most of this was just taken with a grain of salt because it’s natural for veteran players to speak positively of rookies when they come to the NFL. Watt made a great impression on his teammates and had shown excellent work ethic. The preseason came and on into the regular season and the Texans defensive front was a juggernaut with Watt, Williams, Smith, Cody and Barwin. The Texans defense was relentless in their constant pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Most of the attention was paid to outside linebacker Mario Williams due to his reputation, but it was Watt that was constantly flashing the things that we learned about him while he was in college. Watt’s career stats in college were 74 solo tackles, 32 assisted tackles, 106 total tackles, 36.5 tackles for a loss, 11.5 sacks, 1 interception, 14 passes defensed and 3 forced fumbles. All of these came into play throughout the year, but it was even more evident when the Texans went into the playoffs. Watt had a good playoff appearance against the Cincinnati Bengals in the first round of the 2011 NFL Playoffs. He had a sack, two tackles and an interception for a touchdown that changed the momentum of the game for the Texans. His second game against the Baltimore Ravens was even better as he amassed 2.5 sacks, 9 tackles and 3 assisted tackles. Although that game ended in a loss, Watt later said that he learned some things during that time and it was revealed in his second season.

In the 2012 season, the Texans defense was thought to be just as good given the loss of Mario Williams but with Brooks Reed showing so much promise in his rookie season it looked like a wash. What wasn’t expected was what Watt would bring to the table and what he discovered during his first playoff stint. During the 2012 season, it became a coming out party for Watt as he had what is considered the greatest defensive performance in NFL history. Watt had 20.5 sacks (2.5 shy of the record), 16 pass deflections, 4 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, 69 tackles and 12 assisted tackles. All of this came from a 3-4 defensive end position and was an amazing and history defining feat for a defensive lineman, and it set a mark that is unlikely to ever be reached again by Watt or any other defensive player. Fast forwarding to the 2013 season, Watt had set even higher goals stating he wanted to start the 20-20-20 club where a player gets 20 sacks, 20 passes defensed and 20 tackles for a loss. At the time, it was a lofty goal and most people just shrugged it off, but with no other pressure, a sub par defensive front outside of himself and no other player taking some of the double teams away from Watt, it is virtually a certainty that he won’t see those stats anytime soon. Overall, I believe that J.J. Watt will be a great player and a future Hall of Famer if he can stay healthy and continue to put up numbers that defy logic. I just hope that the Texans don’t let Watt go throughout the majority of his career without any substantial help next to him, because that is what happened with Mario Williams. If this happens with Watt, it would cause him to shoulder the load of a defense and that leads to lingering injuries, shortened careers and players peaking before their time. With that being said, the Texans need to address that issue with one of their top two picks.


J.J. Watt 2013

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