Nine games in, J.J. Watt has nine sacks.
From 2012 through 2015, that was about what you'd expect from the 3-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year. On average in that four-year stretch, Watt had 8.75 sacks after Week 9, and wound up with 17.25 sacks per season.
Statistically, he's right back where he was in that span. But after missing the last two seasons with significant knee and back injuries, it's remarkable how far back he's traveled.
"I've never seen anything like it," head coach Bill O'Brien said. "To come back from what he's been able to come back from, some really serious injuries, and to be able to play at the level that he's playing at, it just says all you need to know about him and how much he cares about the team and how much he wants to help this organization win."
Watt's been one of the driving forces on a defense that's 7th in the NFL in points allowed per game (20.4), 9th in total yards allowed per game (336.3) and 7th in rushing yards allowed per game (92.9). In addition to his sacks total, Watt also leads the Texans with 11 tackles for loss and 16 quarterback hits, and is tied for the NFL lead with four forced fumbles.
But leading up to the win at Denver, Watt believed there was room for improvement.
"I'm still not where I want to be yet," Watt said. "I still have plenty of growth and plenty of things to work on – but I didn't make it to game eight in either of the last two seasons so I'm happy with that. I just want to continue to get better every single week."
His defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, jokingly agreed, and pointed to things Watt and outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney could work on in the weeks to come.
"Get some interceptions or catch some balls and run them in for touchdowns," Crennel said. "Everything else is going pretty good."
Clowney was drafted in 2014, but played a combined 17 games his first two seasons in the League because of injuries. He worked hard to return, and has a special appreciation for Watt's determination to get back on the field and dominate.
"Very impressed," Clowney said. "Injuries are not fun. It's hard to deal with confidence-wise and all of that. For him to come out there and be leading the league in sacks is very big for him and his confidence because I'm sure at one point, he was down about it."
Watt, Clowney and the Texans get a weekend of rest, and won't play another game until they face the Redskins on Washington on November 18.
The Traveling Texans showed up big in Denver as the team took on the Broncos for Week 9 and delivered their sixth straight win.