D.J. Reader wants to shine the spotlight on one of his teammates for his outstanding performance.
“We’ve got one dark horse in the run game and he’s killing it in the run game this year,” Reader said. “I am proud of that guy.”
That dark horse is J.J. Watt.
The three-time AP Defensive Player of the Year gets plenty of accolades for his highlights as a pass rusher, Reader says, but has anyone taken notice of Watt against the run?
“In the run-stopping game this year, he’s been doing great,” Reader said. “He’s playing double teams, he’s playing all his blocks. Mr. Watt is doing his thing in the run game this year.”
Reader says the blue-collar mentality has even earned Watt a spot in the interior defensive linemen’s exclusive group, The Lunch Pail Crew. When asked about it, Watt seemed flattered by the praise.
“They are they're own crew, but I appreciate that,” Watt said. “I mean, obviously, the quarterback hits and the sacks and getting after the passer is probably what I'm more known for, but I always try and play the run well. It's just as important part of the game. Somebody once told me; 'You can't get a sack on a running play, so you might as well play the run.' Try to play the run as best as you can and yeah, I do take pride in being able to do both things. You have to be a complete player in this league, especially if you're going to play every play and not just come in on third down.”
Both Reader and head coach Bill O’Brien both agreed that Watt has consistently improved this year against the run, with perhaps his best performance at Indianapolis. The Texans held the Colts to just 62 yards rushing, averaging 2.6 yards per carry, for the fewest rushing yards this season for Indy. Houston also did not allow a first down on the ground.
“When you watch last week's game, he just did a great job in all areas,” O’Brien said. “I think relative to the run defense, he just does a really good job of controlling his gap. He does a great job when the ball is run at him, he does a great job when the ball is run away from him. He's got excellent instincts as to what's going to be run. He's just a very difficult guy to handle. That's why he's one of the best of all time. He's done a great job in all areas of the defense."
Watt still believes his best season against the run came in 2012, when he was playing on the interior of a four-man front. Being a defensive tackle, he was afforded more opportunities to play the run on the inside. Now, as an exterior defensive lineman, Watt has had to make adjustments and work at his craft.
“This last game, personally, I felt really good in a lot of aspects of my game and so I want to continue to grow on that,” Watt said. “Every game this year, I've felt getting stronger and stronger, getting more and more comfortable. Hopefully that continues and we can continue to make plays.”
In Week 7, Watt recorded three total tackles (three solo), one pass defensed and six quarterback hits. He currently has 21 tackles (12 solo), three tackles for loss, 4.0 sacks, 20 quarterback hits, two passes defensed, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries through seven starts this season.
J.J. Watt--from his time as a Texan back to his Wisconsin Badger days--is featured here in photos.