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J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans Is the Best Defensive Player in the NFL

Watt's (99) big mitts are swatting passes left and right.
Watt's (99) big mitts are swatting passes left and right.Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images
Nate DunlevyGuest ColumnistSeptember 24, 2012

The best defender in the NFL has his own catch phrase.

Watt happened!

J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans continued his run of dominance in the Texans' Week 3 win over Denver.

Watt piled on another 2.5 sacks of Peyton Manning on top of the incredible play that made him the AFC Defensive Player of the Week for Week 2.

After an outstanding rookie season in which he collected 5.5 sacks, Watt has broken out in 2012, doubling his career total in just three games. He's also batted down five passes on the season, making the young end perhaps the most devastating weapon against the pass in the game today.

Watt is wreaking havoc with a variety of moves. Most of the damage he's doing isn't the result of exotic schemes by defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, but rather an array of individual pass-rushing moves.

Phillips has made it difficult for opposing lines to know exactly where Watt will attack, but his stunts aren't what is generating the pressure.

In Week 1, he batted a Ryan Tannehill pass into the air, causing a pick. He lined up at left end, but stunted to the middle, leaping from the right side of the center.

He's been stout against the run as well. Against Jacksonville, he helped contain Maurice Jones-Drew by knifing inside of tackle Guy Whimper to stuff the back for a one-yard loss.

Even when he's double teamed, his high motor is enough to drive through the blocks and generate pressure. Here, the Jags actually helped Whimper with a tight end, but it wasn't enough to keep Watt from getting to the quarterback.

Watt is picking up sacks around the outside and inside. On this sack of Blaine Gabbert, Jones-Drew is back to help, but he has to pick up the blitzer. Watt jumps inside of Whimper, but also of James and Jones-Drew, but does it quickly enough to take down Gabbert.

Clearly the scheme helps Watt, but the athletic nature of the plays he makes illustrate that he is the one making the scheme work, rather than the reverse. Without an end big enough to stop the run and fast enough to stunt like Watt, Phillips' defense simply wouldn't work.

Watt's combination of size and speed make him a nightmare for linemen. On this sack of Peyton Manning, he simply bull-rushes the tackle straight back toward the pocket, collapsing the area. When Manning tucks the ball, Watt cleans up with the sack.

There's no good way to protect a quarterback from Watt right now. He's been doubled, shaded inside, shaded outside and chipped. Even when he's blocked, he's so long and alert that it becomes difficult to get a pass off over his outstretched hands.

Watt is the most complete defender in football today, and a major reason the Houston Texans are the last unbeaten team in the AFC.

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