The Texans' second-year player is the premier pass rushing five-technique defensive end in the NFL. Watt leads the NFL with 8 1/2 sacks on the season and, according to Pro Football Focus, has four quarterback hits and nine quarterback hurries on the season. The Wisconsin product has six more sacks than the next best player at his position and eight more total quarterback pressures. Watt also leads all defensive linemen with eight batted passes at the line of scrimmage.
Watt may be the best 3-4 defensive end against the run, too. PFF tracks stats called "stops," which mark each solo tackle that constitutes an offensive failure. Watt has 18 stops on the season, four more than the next best player at his position. Watt is the highest overall rated player in the NFL, according to PFF, which grades every snap with a positive or negative grade for a player.
When Wade Phillips brought his 3-4 defense to the Texans in 2011, they needed a defender to build the system around. Watt was drafted 11th overall in that year's draft and has been dominating offenses ever since. The perfect left defensive end in a three-man front has to be big enough to hold his ground against bigger offensive linemen in the run game, allowing linebackers to fill holes and pick up tackles. He must also be able to set the edge against the run and use his long arms to pick off running backs who are trying to get around the edge. That perfect player also must be able to provide pressure on the
quarterback. Otherwise, the team has to blitz, which affects pass coverage. Watt not only provides all of those skills, but he's also elite in all of them.
The Texans are undefeated this season, but not because of their zone-rushing offense. It's because of their defense. Houston is the third-best defense against the pass and 10th against the run. Because Watt can get pressure after opposing quarterbacks, stuff the run in the middle and pick off running backs cutting outside, he affects every snap he plays in a game. Not many other players can say that in the NFL, barring quarterbacks.
Watt deserves serious MVP consideration if he keeps playing at this level. While Matt Ryan, Tom Brady, Clay Matthews and Jamaal Charles are having monster seasons, there's a debate for who the best players are at their individual positions. There's no debate with Watt. The NFL hasn't seen a well-rounded five-technique defensive end with Watt's pass rushing abilities since Bruce Smith.
The young quarterbacks of the AFC South will dread playing the Texans twice a year for many years to come because of Watt.
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