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 Strahn'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

  • Video: Ponder, Vikings prepare to battle Texans

    Friday December 21, 2012

    Newly-wed QB Christian Ponder will lead the Minnesota Vikings into Houston to face J.J. Watt and the Texans in...

  • 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

Team Irvin 32 FINAL
Team Carter 28
Miami 96 FINAL
Chicago 84
Oklahoma City 98 FINAL
Cleveland 108
Dallas 106 FINAL
New Orleans 109
Indiana 106 FINAL
Orlando 99
LA Clippers 120 FINAL
Phoenix 100
Minnesota 100 FINAL
Atlanta 112
Detroit 110 FINAL
Toronto 114
Milwaukee 95 FINAL
San Antonio 101
Boston 111 FINAL
Golden State 114
Washington 117 FINAL
Denver 115
Houston 99 FINAL
LA Lakers 87
Team Toews 17 FINAL
Team Foligno 12
South Florida 53 FINAL
Connecticut 66
Boston College 64 FINAL
Georgia Tech 62
Virginia 50 FINAL
Virginia Tech 47
Indiana 70 FINAL
Ohio State 82
Stony Brook 61 FINAL
Binghamton 54
Cincinnati 56 FINAL
UCF 46
Maine 70 FINAL
Hartford 61
Monmouth 64 FINAL
Manhattan 71
Fairfield 67 FINAL
Marist 73
Rowan 48 FINAL
Princeton 96
St Bonaventure 48 FINAL
Rhode Island 53
Duke 77 FINAL
St Johns 68
Saint Peters 69 FINAL
Siena 55
Drake 40 FINAL
Wichita State 74
Vermont 61 FINAL
UMass Lowell 50
Seton Hall 57 FINAL
Butler 77
NJIT 72 FINAL
South Alabama 55
Northern Iowa 54 FINAL
Illinois State 53
Louisville 80 FINAL
Pittsburgh 68
UMBC 55 FINAL
Albany 69
Niagara 64 FINAL
Iona 87
Notre Dame 81 FINAL
NC State 78
Belmont 63 FINAL
Tennessee St 55
Creighton 50 FINAL
Villanova 71
Northwestern 67 FINAL
Maryland 68
Washington 56 FINAL
Utah 77
Senior-North 34 FINAL
Senior-South 13
Seton Hall 99 FINAL
Georgetown 85
St Johns 69 FINAL
Villanova 81
Arkansas 58 FINAL
Florida 72
Maine 56 FINAL
UMBC 42
Vanderbilt 55 FINAL
Alabama 52
Lafayette 60 FINAL
Lehigh 65
UCF 61 FINAL
SMU 57
Utah 51 FINAL
Washington 63
James Madison 73 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 53
Delaware 56 FINAL
Drexel 61
Hofstra 56 FINAL
William & Mary 57
Hartford 58 FINAL
Albany 82
Binghamton 54 FINAL
Stony Brook 67
Towson 63 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 71
Wake Forest 80 FINAL
(17) Florida State 110
Georgia Tech 68 FINAL
Virginia 62
(22) Georgia 51 FINAL
(5) Tennessee 59
Drake 79 FINAL
Evansville 62
Iona 80 FINAL
Canisius 62
Fairfield 33 FINAL
Monmouth 59
Northwestern 75 FINAL
Penn State 76
Wisconsin 71 FINAL
Michigan State 77
Ohio State 79 FINAL
Purdue 71
Northern Iowa 57 FINAL
Indiana State 55
Butler 58 FINAL
Xavier 54
Creighton 93 FINAL
Marquette 75
Providence 42 FINAL
DePaul 90
Northeastern 77 FINAL
Elon 80
(2) Connecticut 96 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Oregon 78 FINAL
Arizona 81
Bradley 46 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 45
NC State 49 FINAL
(23) Syracuse 66
(7) Maryland 84 FINAL
Indiana 74
Illinois State 35 FINAL
Missouri State 58
Colorado 68 FINAL
Washington St 73
Tulane 45 FINAL
South Florida 64
(14) Kentucky 83 FINAL
Missouri 69
(9) Oregon State 68 FINAL
(13) Arizona State 57
Vermont 63 FINAL
UMass Lowell 72
Iowa State 58 FINAL
(8) Texas 57
Southern Ill 61 FINAL
Wichita State 80
(15) Duke 74 FINAL
(12) North Carolina 67
Miami-Florida 55 FINAL
(4) Louisville 68
(21) Minnesota 61 FINAL
(25) Rutgers 66
California 72 FINAL
UCLA 57
(11) Stanford 71 FINAL
USC 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