Offenses at the mercy of Watt's end game

  • Article by: KENT YOUNGBLOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 22, 2012 - 12:38 AM

His MVP-caliber work off the edge in a 3-4 has not been lost on the Vikings, or any other Texans opponents.

J.J. Watt has heard this before. Lots of times, judging by the tone of his voice. And yet again, this week, he was asked if he was aware that defensive ends in 3-4 defensive schemes shouldn't be doing what he's doing.

Yes.

And, frankly, that is one reason the Houston star is so motivated.

"That's one of the things I wanted to do this year," Watt said, days before his Texans played host to the Vikings. "Everywhere I turned people were saying, 'A 3-4 end doesn't put up big numbers, 3-4 ends can't make a huge impact.' And I say, why not?"

All Watt has done is redefine a position. The end in a 3-4 defense is supposed to be a run-stuffing, gap-minding, blocker-eating enabler for speedy rushing linebackers. Guys who take on double-teams so those pass rushers don't have to. Guys who do the dirty work, mostly out of the spotlight.

Nobody told Watt.

Or better yet everybody, it seems, told him. But he didn't listen. A defensive end in a traditional 4-3 at the University of Wisconsin, Watt was a first-round pick in 2011 who spent his rookie season learning a new position, totaling 56 tackles and four passes defensed while figuring out how to deal with the mayhem that occurs along the interior line of NFL games.

But that was just a warmup for this season.

In 14 games Watt is tied for the NFL lead with 19 1/2 sacks, leads the Texans (12-2) with 74 tackles. He has 33 tackles for loss, 38 QB hits, 15 passes defensed. He has forced three fumbles and recovered two.

Here's a mind-blowing stat: Watt has been a part of 84 plays this season that have gone for zero or negative yards. Since passes defensed became an official stat in 1991, Watt is the only player to have at least 15 sacks and 15 passes defensed in the same season.

Reggie White -- a player Watt, a Wisconsin native, grew up admiring -- never did it.

Watt grew up in suburban Milwaukee. He initially committed to Central Michigan, then switched to the Gophers when Brian Kelly left Central Michigan. When Glen Mason was relieved as Gophers coach, Watt wound up back at CMU, where he played a season as a tight end. Ultimately he switched to Wisconsin, playing the 2009 and 2010 seasons as a defensive end for the Badgers.

Two years later, Watt is having a role-defining season with the Texans.

MVP talk

"I planned on having a big year," Watt said. "I wanted to have a huge impact this year. This is what my whole life has been working toward."

Watt has become a leader in the clubhouse in talk about Defensive Player of the Year, as well as the MVP award. Watt, who is moved around on the line, can make plays from anywhere, with a nonstop motor and a nose for the ball. Just ask Vikings defensive end Jared Allen, who flirted with the sack record last season.

"What J.J. Watt is doing is crazy from that 5-technique position," Allen said. "That's like a once-in-a-lifetime, praise-God-that-thing-is-happening, because you don't see that very often. He doesn't try to get outside of himself. He does what he does. He has one move and he has a counter off of it. If he doesn't get there, he tries to affect the game in all facets."

And that's why many are describing Sunday's game at Reliant Stadium as a matchup of MVP candidates Adrian Peterson and Watt, two fellows who figure to meet a few times.

"He's unbelievable to watch on tape," Peterson told Houston-area reporters this week. "He's definitely a football player. God created him to play this game. I'm just pumped. I love playing against the best."

Said Watt: "I obviously appreciate the compliment and I'm looking forward to playing against him."

'Highlight film'

As the end in a 3-4, Watt figures to see a lot of Vikings guard Brandon Fusco, and vice versa. Fusco has been spending extra hours watching tape of Watt, though the Texans do move him around a bit.

His impressions of the 6-5, 295-pound Watt?

"Every film of him looks like a highlight film," Fusco said. "He's a big guy. You look at him and you think he'd just be a bull rusher. But he can switch it up. If he sees you leaning, something that will give him an edge, he will take it and make you look stupid. I have to be ready. I have to have the best game of my life. [But] I can make a name for myself in this game, you know what I'm saying? I look forward to the challenge."

Fusco said a key for the Vikings will be taking the action to Watt and the Texans with a good running game. Not easy, given Houston's No. 6 NFL ranking against the run. Watt has the strength needed to play the run, and the quickness to beat double-teams and get pressure.

He is the anchor of a seventh-ranked defense on a team with Super Bowl aspirations. That's his big goal, of course. Not winning an MVP award, not breaking the single-season sack record of 22 1/2 set in 2001.

But he will admit he does think about that record. Watt and San Francisco outside linebacker Aldon Smith each have 19 1/2, three short of Michael Strahan's record.

"I hope I do," he said of setting the record. "I respect Michael Strahan, but if you're not trying to break it, what's the point?

  • related content

  • Chris Cook will play Sunday in Houston

    Friday December 21, 2012

    After missing six games with a broken bone in his right arm, the Vikings promising young cornerback will return to action against the Texans.

  • Robison back at practice, still fighting to play Sunday

    Friday December 21, 2012

    More on Brian Robison's shoulder sprain, Matt Kalil's illness and the Vikings' entire injury report.

  • Pregame snapshot: Vikings at Texans

    Friday December 21, 2012

    Until further notice, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson will remain the central figure under the spotlight, continuing an extraordinary season that has him in position to break Eric Dickerson's single-season...

  • Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt.

  • VIKINGS WEEK 16

    Up next: Noon Sunday at Houston

    TV: Ch. 9 (100.3-FM, 1130-AM)

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Seattle
Toronto 104 FINAL
Indiana 91
Cleveland 103 FINAL
Detroit 95
Milwaukee 109 FINAL
Miami 102
Memphis 109 FINAL
Dallas 90
Chicago 113 FINAL
Golden State 111
Washington 98 FINAL
LA Lakers 92
NY Rangers 1 FINAL
NY Islanders 4
Arizona 3 FINAL(SO)
Philadelphia 4
Winnipeg 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh 5
Washington 3 FINAL
Columbus 4
Tampa Bay 2 FINAL
Carolina 4
Dallas 2 FINAL
Montreal 3
Detroit 5 FINAL
Florida 4
Colorado 3 FINAL(OT)
Nashville 4
Buffalo 1 FINAL
Calgary 4
Minnesota 2 FINAL
Edmonton 1
Anaheim 4 FINAL
Vancouver 0
Ball State 47 FINAL
Akron 59
Northern Ill 46 FINAL
Bowling Green 56
Western Mich 71 FINAL
Buffalo 77
Ohio 40 FINAL
Eastern Mich 76
Xavier 66 FINAL
Georgetown 53
Vanderbilt 62 FINAL
Georgia 70
West Virginia 65 FINAL
Kansas State 59
Central Mich 53 FINAL
Kent State 63
Saint Josephs 48 FINAL
La Salle 53
Nebraska 44 FINAL
Michigan 58
Miami-Ohio 65 FINAL
Toledo 70
Tulsa 62 FINAL
Tulane 55
George Washington 48 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 72
Pittsburgh 67 FINAL
Virginia Tech 70
Indiana State 78 FINAL
Evansville 89
Tabor College 53 FINAL
Oral Roberts 94
Florida 52 FINAL
Alabama 50
Tennessee 64 FINAL
Arkansas 69
Texas A&M 71 FINAL
Auburn 61
Baylor 53 FINAL
Oklahoma State 64
DePaul 0 Postponed
Providence 0
Michigan State 0 Postponed
Rutgers 0
Wyoming 44 FINAL
Utah State 56
Fresno State 47 FINAL
San Diego St 58
UNLV 67 FINAL
Nevada 62
SD Christian 54 FINAL
CS-Bakersfield 79
Colorado State 78 FINAL
Boise State 82
Temple 71 FINAL
UCF 54
Campbell 42 FINAL
Presbyterian 51
Coastal Carolina 65 FINAL
High Point 73
Gardner-Webb 49 FINAL
Radford 59
UNC-Asheville 58 FINAL
Liberty 62
Winthrop 63 FINAL
Longwood 62
Columbia International 33 FINAL
Charleston Southern 74
Tulane 63 FINAL
Houston 46
(3) Baylor 89 FINAL
TCU 67
Navy 49 FINAL
American Univ 59
Valparaiso 42 FINAL
Illinois-Chicago 60
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami NoonX37-35
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago NoonX13-9

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who will win the Super Bowl?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close