Six names, all connected to Romeo Crennel.
J.J. Watt might join them.
Texans defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel gets the Throwback Thursday treatment. Check out pics of him as an assistant with the Giants and Patriots, as well as head coach of the Browns and Chiefs.
Crennel, the Texans defensive coordinator, held the same post elsewhere for seven seasons. Once with the Browns in 2000. Four years after that in New England. And a pair of seasons--with the last three games of the 2011 as the head coach--as a Chief. The list above represents the single-season sack leaders from the defenses he coached.
McKenzie led the Browns with eight sacks in 2000, while Hamilton tallied a team-best seven sacks for the Pats in 2001. McGinest and Seymour shared the New England sack lead with 5.5 in 2002, while Vrabel notched 9.5 for the Pats in 2003. McGinest had 9.5 in 2004, and Hali was Crennel's only double-digit sackmaster with 14.5 and 12 in Kansas City.
So what does that mean for Watt, the defensive end who's amassed an NFL-best 31 sacks over the last two regular seasons? Time will tell, but Crennel acknowledged on Tuesday that he the 2012 NFL Defensive Player of the Year is a special talent.
"He's pretty good, I believe," Crennel said. "That is one of the things that I've noticed about him."
The veteran defensive mind, who also was an eyewitness to Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor's legendary reign of terror in the 1980's and early 90's with the Giants, wouldn't reveal his plans on how he'll use Watt in 2014. But Crennel took his initial "he's pretty good" description, and elaborated on what Watt allows him to create as a coordinator.
"I see putting J.J. on the field and letting him make the plays that he's been making because I have not seen a defense yet that did not use playmakers," Crennel said. "If you've got a playmaker, you're going to use the playmaker. J.J. is a playmaker."
Crennel was also quick to point out that a team effort and putting "the best football players on the field" was the organization's plan to win. The most specific part of Watt he praised, though, was the fourth-year star's effort.
"He's a pleasure to work with because he gives you everything he's got all of the time," Crennel said. "We tell the guys to do your best and then you let the chips fall where they may. His best is pretty good." Time after time this offseason and through OTAs, and most recently in an NFL Network interivew, Watt has dismissed talking about his personal goals and instead discussed how he and his teammates are
"buying in" to the new system put in place, and focused on getting better.
"As players, we're doing the best that we can to get into the playbook, to learn the terminology fast, so that we can move forward," Watt said last week.
Interestingly enough, a name from the list above is now on the staff with Crennel here in Houston. Vrabel is coaching the linebackers, and was a key cog on the three-time Super Bowl champion defenses. Since head coach Bill O'Brien has spoken repeatedly about being flexible and his players being able to play multiple positions, Vrabel is always there to be a sounding board for Watt should that possibility arise.
With help from outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney, and the healthy return of 2011 team MVP Brian Cushing at inside linebacker, how offenses account for Watt will be fascinating to watch. Additionally, the way outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus develops under Crennel could go a long way to making Watt and the defense, ultimately, a tougher unit to handle.
How Crennel utilizes him, and how Watt compares to the players Crennel's coached throughout a career that's seen him earn five Super Bowl rings, will be a key subplot to watch in the years to come.