For this week’s amateur adventures in film I decided to give myself the Christmas present of JJ Watt on coaching tape so I took a loot the Houston Texans’ week fifteen game against the New York Jets.
Watt may not be in the discussion for MVP like he was in his pomp only a couple of seasons ago, but he has amassed fourteen and a half sacks this season that has him tied for second in the league with Denielle Hunter and Von Miller, behind only Aaron Donald. Watt book-ended this game with two sacks and in between was a destructive force throughout. He was spelled a couple of times for a handful of plays, but for most of the game he was on the field at left end, be it as part of the Texans’ 3-4 base defence or more their more predominantly used in this game 4-2 nickel look. That said he also played right end at time as well as lining up as a pass rush defensive tackle lined up opposite an offensive tackle, although he would rush the guard inside him.
On the Jets’ opening drive, Watt got round first the left tackle and then the right tackle on successive plays before stalling the drive with a sack. The things that perhaps I was most impressed with by Watt was his use of hands. I was praising David Bakhtiari last week for his patience, which was because of how good he was with his hands when he engaged the pass rush and Watt has a similar ability being put to the opposite use. Watt has the knack of either avoiding blocks or getting off them thanks to his ability to control contact and this combined with his still formidable physical gifts allows him to play the run incredibly well as well as being a danger rushing the passer. He might have had even more sacks were it not for a couple of holds that were called and some more that I thought could have been called. Watt is not a straight speed rusher but often uses speed to power, or dips his shoulder round the tackle to power towards the quarterback as well as straight bull rushing the offensive player in front of him. He also frequently nearly got tackles in the backfield that he had no right to get near and forced the quarterback to move in the pocket even if the offensive player stayed in front of him.
The Jets did not slide all their protection to Watt, but it was common for him to be double teamed or get bumped by a running back or tight end as they went past. There was one play where I’m sure the right guard Brian Winters was pointing out something for the protection scheme, but it did look for all the world like he was saying he’s there, Watt is there. The results for the Jets could have been worse, but for all that he has looked like a rookie this season, I thought that Sam Darnold showed good awareness in the pocket and moved to deliver the ball as well as scrambling effectively a couple of times. He has not got a lot of strength at the skill positions and the Jets might have a player to develop around in the coming years.
I really enjoyed watching this tape as there was a time in the last couple of seasons where it felt as if Watt was never going to get back on the field and whilst he may never quite live up to the previous highs he reached, Watt is once again an all pro player and I wouldn’t like to bet against him repeating this play in the future. That is perhaps as good a Christmas present as I could have hoped for.