MegaWatt. J.J. Swatt. Sultan of Swatt. Leader of the Swatt Team.
Whatever you want to call him, there’s no slowing down
With two sacks, three tackles for loss and a fumble recovery against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, Watt now leads the NFL with 7.5 sacks through four games. The second-year defensive end is the first player with at least 1.5 sacks in each of the first four games of a season since Carolina Panthers linebacker Kevin Greene in 1998.
“I don’t know that there is anybody playing better in the league than J.J.,” Texans chairman and CEO Bob McNair said after Watt helped the Texans dismantle the Titans 38-14 in Week 4. “Two sacks or more for three games, five games, whatever it is, I can’t keep up with it anymore. They just can’t control him.”
Forget the Pro Bowl and Defensive Player of the Year award. Watt is making an early case for NFL MVP honors as the star of the Texans’ 4-0 start. He leads the team in sacks, passes defensed (5) and tackles for loss (10) and ranks second with 20 tackles.
““I’ve seen guys dominating in my years,” Texans defensive end
“We all feed off of him. It becomes a friendly competition where everybody this week was getting on the highlight film. Everybody was like, ‘We are all going to get on the highlight tape. J.J. is not going to take over the highlight tape this week.’ But, he did it again.”
Watt already has surpassed his sack total from last season, when he had 5.5 and earned All-Rookie honors. At his current pace, he would finish the season with 30 sacks. He would tie Mario Williams’ franchise single-season sack record (14.0) in the eighth game of the season.
“He’s playing great,” linebacker
Watt has recorded multiple sacks in five consecutive games since the 2011 playoffs. In those five games, he has 32 tackles (25 solo), 10 sacks, 13 tackles for loss, five passes defensed and two fumble recoveries.
“I thought that he was the best defensive lineman in the league the last couple of games of the season last year,” Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said. “He’s just continued that. He’s a dominant player.”
Phillips boldly said this offseason that Watt has Hall of Fame potential. Watt has a long way to go, but he’s making his coach look like he may have been on to something.
“I want to make him look good,” Watt said. “I want to make him look right, and I am not going to do that by getting no sacks, so I need to get out there and play my tail off. He instilled that confidence in me. He showed me that he believes in me, and I want to go out there and make the world believers.”
Asked Sunday about Watt’s dominant play, Texans head coach Gary Kubiak shared a story from Saturday afternoon. The Texans had just finished a walk-through practice at Reliant Stadium. Kubiak wanted to kill some time before watching Rice, for whom his son Klein plays wide receiver, play the University of Houston.
“I had some time on my hands, so I go in the weight room to get me a little exercise in, and he is in there for at least an hour lifting weights,” Kubiak said. “He is special. He works to be special.”
Watt said he lifts after every Saturday practice and that several of his teammates do as well. He went out of his way to credit teammates for keeping extra blockers away from him, noting that offenses can’t double-team him because the Texans have playmakers like
Watt has received some ribbing in the Texans’ locker room for his emerging celebrity status. But the 23-year-old from Pewaukee, Wisc., who worked at Pizza Hut and walked on at Wisconsin just four years ago, said he doesn’t mind the publicity his play has attracted.
“It means I’m playing good,” Watt said. “If they don’t want to talk to me, that means I’m stinking it up, so I don’t want that. I hope it continues.”
Watt also didn’t shy away from questions about being mentioned as the leading candidate for the Defensive Player of the Year award.
“It’s a goal,” he said. “It’s a goal. There are lots of bigger goals out there, though. It’s an honor that people are putting me in that category, but it is early. It’s Week 4, and we’ve got a long way to go. “
With the way Watt has dominated the first four games, it’s easy to forget he missed the entire preseason with a dislocated left elbow. He put in 16-hour days of rehab with the Texans’ training staff, getting to Reliant at 5:15 a.m. and leaving at 9:30 p.m., and now plays with a large brace on his left arm.
Whatever Watt did in his rehab sure seems to have worked. All-Pro wide receiver
“He’s been doing a lot of damage over these past four games,” Johnson said. “It just shows the work he puts in. When he got injured, I went up to him and I’m like ‘How you feeling?’ He’s like, ‘I’ll be ready Week 1’. He was ready to go, and it’s been showing. He's playing his butt off."
Speaking for Texans fans everywhere, Johnson added: “He’s a beast out there. We expect to hear his name called at least four or five times a game or out there tipping balls or doing something crazy.”