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Why Watt Is Great

Posted Sep 2, 2014

John Harris breaks down a play that shows J.J. Watt's special talent.

Late last spring, Evan Koch, communications manager for the Texans, asked if I would do a Lunch and Learn for the Texans non-football personnel.

"Just talk some basic X's and O's and give people a little idea of what the game's all about".

Heck yeah, I can do that in my sleep and probably have in some dream world. Anyhow, I planned to show the differences in the zone blocking scheme and the power run game.

Thinking of past opponents that executed the power running game well, the first team I thought of was Seattle. So, I cued up the 2013 Texans - Seahawks game and found some outside zone from the Texans, then found my one requisite Seahawks power play.

Then, as I'm writing my notes I accidentally let the game copy run. On the very next play as I'm writing in my notebook, I hear...

"blah, blah...Wilson to Turbin..."

"JJ WATT..."

Yeah, heard those two words before...plenty of times. Long drawn out J's. "JAAAAA JAAAA WAAAATTTTT". Of course, I knew by the reaction I needed to rewatch the play. I'm glad that I did because I then knew I had an unintended additional talking point for the Texans Lunch and Learn crowd. As I showed the difference in the zone and power run schemes, I told them that I had one other play they probably all needed to see.

I wanted to show them why Texans DE JJ Watt was the best in the game and that it wasn't even close.

I half-joked that this was why he'd eventually sign a massive contract. Little did I know that would happen on Tuesday.

It was second and three early in the game and the Seahawks are in "21" personnel (two backs, one tight end) in a traditional pro set. Watt lined up in a wide 3, basically splitting the B gap.



The Seahawks plan was to run zone isolation to the weak side. TE through LG planned to zone block to the left, the LT fanned out on the OLB and the FB led through the hole on the DE/ILB whichever showed first.

On the snap, the first asset in Watt's game came through: quickness. I put the play in slow motion replay and realized he was the first guy off the ball on either side of the line of scrimmage.

Either way, as he read OL to his right, he knew he was in great shape off the snap because he knew the guard wouldn't block back on him and the tackle was slow off the ball. Then, Watt established his position with his second great asset: the use of his hands.



Immediately, he fired both hands at Seahawks RT Michael Bowie to establish separation and had complete and total control of him for the rest of the play.



His third asset: smelling blood. Defensive linemen are often taught, let the linebackers make the play. You hold up blockers, you let the LBs make the play, but Watt doesn't prescribe to that theory in the slightest. He gained separation from Bowie as he stayed flat down the line of scrimmage. It looked like Bowie could've ridden JJ right down the line and allowed his RB the opportunity to cut back behind him.

But, it was time to see his fourth asset: redirection. Do this experiment when you have time...and can find a nearly 300 pound man hanging around your block. Ask him to move in a particular direction and then ask him to stop on a dime and go the other way. Trust me, they might pull a hammy or three. But, Watt excels in this area. As soon as he got the RB in his sights, he immediately planted his left foot and...



...time for his fifth asset: burst and explosiveness. He finished RB Robert Turbin, in style, by body slamming him into the turf. TFL to set up third down and long. Ho hum for Watt, perfect example of why he's so dominant for the rest of us.

I love watching the end zone copy for the interior run game but the actual TV copy from the sideline showed the finish to this play better. Watt covered three and a half yards of space in a blur. From the time he planted his foot to the time he made contact with Turbin was a snap of the fingers. Bowie should've been able to bury him down the LOS, but Watt ripped past him, zeroed in on the RB and burst to and through the RB.

There's so much to Watt that it's hard to single out one play in a regular season game to prove his worth. But, it's easy to see an interception or a sack or a Yahoo commercial or autographs at training camp or selfies with nearly everyone or...well, you get the point. This exercise is a true look at the fact that he's maybe even better on the field than his stats show. And, that might be his most true asset: he's even better than he appears.

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