HOUSTON — You expected the Houston Texans team that lost to the Baltimore Ravens in the playoffs would come back better this season. Matt Schaub would be the quarterback instead of T.J. Yates. Andre Johnson would be fully healthy. Instead of Jacoby Jones the Texans would have someone who was less of a knucklehead. Mario Williams didn’t play in the game anyway.
So, yes, the Texans would be better, probably even better than the Ravens, maybe better than anybody else in the AFC. That seemed to be what most people thought and after two games we can all feel good about our ability to peer into the future.
But be honest, now. You didn’t think J.J. Watt would be this good, did you?
Let’s have a little fun with it. If you took what Watt has done through two games and extrapolated that over an entire NFL season, he would end up with 24 sacks and 40 passes defensed from a position (defensive end in a 3-4 alignment) that is not even supposed to be the one that gets the big numbers.
That will not happen, but it gives you an idea what Watt has done in the first two games of his second NFL season. Green Bay’s Clay Matthews somehow has six sacks already, Cleveland’s D’Qwell Jackson has three sacks and two interceptions and Chicago’s Tim Jennings has three interceptions. After that, it’s pretty much down to Watt if the question is, Which defensive player has impacted the NFL most this season?
I’m no scout, but there might not be a better 3-4 defensive end in the NFL. And I don’t mean to get too hyperbolic, but Watt changes everything. He has dominated Houston’s first two opponents. You cannot run against his side. If you want to pass, you had better get two bodies on him. And if you stone him at the line, there’s still a good chance he’s batting down your pass at the line of scrimmage.
Then there are the plays he makes when he doesn’t even make the play. A great example of one happened against Jacksonville. I am sure you remember it, because it nearly ended with a safety.
On 1st-and-10 from their own 20, the Jaguars dropped back to pass. The Texans rushed both outside linebackers to make a five-man rush. The Jaguars kept six men in protection, and used that advantage to successfully double-team Watt with their right guard (Uche Nwaneri) and right tackle (Cameron Bradfield). Houston’s other defensive end, Antonio Smith, beat Jaguars left tackle Eugene Monroe, however, and drew a holding call.
On 2nd-and-20 from the 10, the Texans rushed four against five blockers, plus the running back who stuck around long enough to chip in against the rush before leaking out as a safety valve. Again the Jaguars had two men blocking Watt (this time Nwaneri and center Brad Meester), while outside linebacker Brooks Reed beat Bradfield for a sack and a loss of nine yards.
My point is not to take credit away from Smith or Reed, who are good players too, but to point out that every play is a piece of whizzing machinery and that Watt is a big ol’ blond glitch for opposing offenses.
I can’t call it a surprise. Everybody knew Watt was good last year. He made the biggest play in the biggest win in Texans history. But although it is early in the season, and although the Texans have not played a good team yet, it appears we are watching the first steps of a player on the way to stardom. If Watt plays like this the rest of the year, he’ll run away with the NFL defensive player of the year award.
And be honest. You expeted a lot. But you didn’t quite expect this, did you?