HOUSTON (AP) J.J. Watt’s stellar work got the Houston Texans defense off to a good start.
Now the defensive end has some help in getting after quarterbacks with the return of No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney.
The group is second in the league in takeaways with 17 and hopes the rookie’s return will lead to more success in the second half of the season starting with Sunday’s game against Philadelphia (5-2).
Clowney had one tackle in limited action last week in his first game after sitting out six following arthroscopic knee surgery. Coach Bill O’Brien was encouraged by his performance on Sunday and said they’ll ease him into more work in the upcoming weeks.
Watt was happy to have the 6-foot-5, 266-pound Clowney back on the field with him.
”I think he’s going to continue to get better as he goes on,” Watt said. ”As he goes, getting back into the defense, getting back into conditioning and getting back into everything … I think that will be good for him and he’ll continue to impress.”
Watt has been dominant through the first eight games. He’s scored two defensive touchdowns, leads the league with 24 quarterback hits, has seven sacks and has swatted down seven passes. He also had a touchdown catch and joked that the best thing he did in the first half of the season was scoring more touchdowns than he ever has.
Never satisfied, Watt is looking to for more to help the defense improve.
”There are so many things that I want to work on,” he said. ”It’s all very little things, but you want to make sure you get those little things squared away because those are the differences between a missed sack and a sack, and a fumble and a forced fumble, a batted ball or not a batted ball.”
The Texans (4-4) have been more focused on forcing turnovers this season after struggling to get takeaways in last year’s terrible 2-14 season.
”You want to get the ball back into the hands of your offense as quickly as possible or put the ball in the end zone yourself,” Watt said. ”We’ve been doing a good job of that. We need to continue to do a good job of that because that leads to points.”
Watt has scored two touchdowns off turnovers this season and Houston’s secondary has forced eight fumbles and has four interceptions. Safety D.J. Swearinger, the trash-talking, swagger-oozing heart of the group, puffs up his chest a bit when asked about Houston’s success in forcing turnovers.
”It’s tremendous. That’s our identity,” he said. ”That’s something that we want to keep doing. We want to double that number from the first half.”
The Texans had trouble stopping the run early this season and ranked 25th in that category after three games. They’ve turned things around since then and are 12th in run defense by giving up just more than 108 yards a game. A key to the improvement was the addition of nose tackle Ryan Pickett, who signed on Sept. 24.
”He’s played a big role,” O’Brien said. ”He’s done a good job of holding the point. He’s a tough guy to move. He’s a 340-pound guy. He’s got good instincts, good hands.”
Watt raved about Pickett, who will play his 200th career game on Sunday, and said he probably doesn’t get enough praise for his work.
”You have to give him credit because he’s not going to get it on the tackle sheet. He’s not going to get it from the traditional ways,” Watt said. ”Those guys do a thankless job. They go in there and they take on double teams and they take on those blocks inside, and they deserve the thanks.”
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