The 5 Most Super Plays of J.J. Watt's Career
It's safe to say that he has exceeded all expectations. After a solid rookie season in which he had 56 tackles, 5.5 sacks and four batted passes, Watt turned into a game-changing player with a massive second season.
Watt was nearly unstoppable as he recorded a league-best 20.5 sacks in 2012, with 81 tackles and 16 passes defensed. In addition to making plays in the backfield with his speed, strength and technique, his propensity for batting down passes earned him the nickname J.J. Swatt.
The Texans were a dynamic team in 2012 as they finished with a 12-4 record, but they suffered through a disastrous 2-14 season in 2013. Despite his squad's poor play, Watt continued to harass quarterbacks, as he registered 10.5 sacks and seven passes defensed.
Watt has made his name by making impact plays. Here's a look at five of the most dynamic plays in his career.
Watt Welcomes Back Manning
While Manning would go on to have an excellent year in the Mile High City, this was just his third game in a Denver uniform after missing all of the 2011 season following neck surgery.
Watt was not about to take it easy on him.
He sacked Manning 2.5 times, and his closing ability (at the 51-second mark of video above) confounded the quarterback and his blockers. It was a stellar performance for Watt, because one of the earmarks of Manning's career has been his ability to get the ball away quickly and avoid sacks.
But when he lined up against Watt, that plan quickly disappeared, and the Texans came away with a 31-25 victory.
Best on Best: Watt Brings Down Peterson
A defensive end like Watt makes the highlight films because of his ability to come up with sacks and bat passes at big moments.
But he still makes his living in the trenches, and he would not have become an impact player if he didn't excel in all aspects of defensive play. That includes dominating on the line of scrimmage and making plays against the run.
When the Minnesota Vikings came to Houston in Week 16 of the 2012 season, Watt was confronted with All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson. Anything less than his best effort could have allowed Peterson (2,097 yards in 2012) to come up with an explosive performance, but Watt and the Texans held him to 86 yards on 25 carries.
In the play featured at the 40-second mark on the video above, Watt stopped Peterson dead in his tracks for a loss in the backfield. Peterson is normally too fast and too strong to get stopped like that, but it seemed almost routine for the voracious Watt.
Watt Hat Trick Dooms Stafford and Lions
The rampaging Texans rolled into Detroit on Thanksgiving Day in 2012. They had won nine of their first 10 games and did not want to get tripped up by Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and the last-place Detroit Lions.
Stafford made his share of plays in the game as the Lions scored frequently, but it was not enough as the Texans came away with a 34-31 overtime victory. Watt once again proved to be Houston's best player as he registered football's version of the hat trick with three sacks of Stafford.
In the video above (at the 2:52 mark), we focus on Watt's second sack of the day. After he fought off the block of an overmatched Gosder Cherilus, he wrapped up Stafford and sent him crashing to the Ford Field turf. It was a strong example of Watt's technique, strength and finishing ability.
J.J. Swatt Ruins the Dolphins
Watt set the tone for his remarkable 2012 season in the opener vs. the Dolphins.
While Watt was credited with just a half sack in the game, he did nothing but cause nightmares for Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Watt deflected three of his passes (2:41 mark of video above) as the Texans cruised to an easy 30-10 victory in the season opener.
The third of those deflections resulted in an interception by defensive back Kareem Jackson, who easily gathered in the ball and turned out the lights on Miami's hopes of turning this one-sided game around.
Most NFL pass-rushers realize it takes an exhaustive effort to record a sack and bring the quarterback down to the ground.
When the Texans went on the road to face the New York Jets in Week 5 of the 2012 season, Watt demonstrated that when a player has speed, quickness and dexterity, it may just take a well-placed hand to bring down the quarterback.
That's all Watt needed to sack Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez.
The New York quarterback was attempting to step up into the pocket as he eyed his receivers downfield. Watt blew by Jets guard Brandon Moore, but Sanchez had already gotten past him. Watt merely reached for the quarterback with his right hand and got hold of his left ankle (:36 second mark of video above).
That move sent the quarterback down, and Watt had yet another sack.
It was the kind of move that Hall of Famers like Deacon Jones, Reggie White and Bruce Smith could have made, but few others. Watt proved that while he may not belong in the same breath with that trio, he deserves to be in the conversation.