Texans defensive end J.J. Watt had one of the best seasons by a defensive player in NFL history in 2012.
He thinks he can get even better.
"Just wait 'til next year," Watt said on Monday morning at Reliant Stadium before, like his teammates, cleaning out his locker a day after the Texans' season ended with a playoff loss at New England. "I'm 23 years old. I'm two years into the league. I'm still learning what I'm doing out there. I'm just trying to have some fun. I have a lot of time left in this league, I hope, and I have a lot of improvement to make. My second year is not going to be my best year in the NFL, I can promise you that."
Watt's 2012 season was one for the ages. He had 20.5 sacks, most in the NFL, tied for sixth-most in league history and two sacks shy of Michael Strahan's single-season record. He had 16 passes defensed, a new NFL record for a defensive lineman. He was the first player in league history with 15 sacks and 15 passes defensed in a season. He was involved in 95 plays of zero or negative yardage and had a team-leading 39 tackles for loss and 42 quarterback hits.
"I had a lot of fun," Watt said. "I love all the guys on this team. It was a blast. We came up short, and I'm disappointed and apologize to the fans for that. I took away that personally I can get a lot better, and I'm really excited about where I can go.
"My pass rush can get better. My run stopping can get better. There's a whole bunch of stuff I can do to get better. You can trust that I'm going to put every single ounce of energy that I have into making all those things come true. This whole offseason, all my work, everything is going to be focused on making myself better so that I can help this team get to the next level."
A first-round draft pick out of Wisconsin in 2011, Watt earned All-Rookie honors last season with 5.5 sacks. He was a unanimous All-Pro selection this season and will play in his first Pro Bowl in Honolulu in two weeks. He's a shoo-in to be named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year when the Associated Press announces the award on Feb. 2, the night before the Super Bowl.
"I'm sure in a few weeks or so, I'll sit back and I'll look at it and say, 'Yeah, that was pretty cool; it's crazy,'" Watt said. "But right now, this hurts. It's a big loss for us, and it's a team game and it's never about one guy. But I do want to say thank you to all my teammates and all my coaches and everyone for making me look good all year. They're the reason that I get the individual awards, they're the reason that I get the individual accolades. I appreciate them and I can't thank them enough.
"I think we have a tremendous amount of core talent. I think we have all the pieces in place. We just didn't put it together yesterday, and obviously it hurts and it's gonna hurt for a little while. But I'm not gonna sit here and sulk about it forever. I'm gonna go back to work and make sure that next season, it doesn't happen again."