Houston Texans: J.J. Watt Is the Latest in a Long Line of Great Pass Rushers

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Houston Texans: J.J. Watt Is the Latest in a Long Line of Great Pass Rushers
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Who is this guy J.J. Watt and why is he the biggest story at the quarter mark of this NFL season?

If this role were going to be filled by a Houston Texan, then Arian Foster, maybe Matt Schaub or possibly Andre Johnson would be the center of attention. 

The talk about this second-year defensive end was supposed to be whether he would make the Pro Bowl, not who was trailing him in the race for Defensive Player of the Year. Even more surprising, his impact on the field has exceeded that of any offensive player. 

How is this possible? Check out Football Outsiders' assessment of Watt in its Week 4 Quick Reads:

Jared Allen led the league with 33 Defeats in 2011. Watt is already halfway to that total after only four games. In the past 15 years, no defensive lineman has had more Defeats in a season than Robert Porcher, who had 37 for the Detroit Lions in 1997. That record is now in serious jeopardy.

A statement like that begs for some historical perspective for the AFC Defensive Player of the Month. Watt could be headed for one of the all-time great seasons for a defensive end. He is the latest in a long tradition that stretches back to Gino Marchetti, Deacon Jones and Carl Eller.  

Now, the season is as young as the career of this emerging star. But when your play is so spectacular, comparisons with present and future Hall of Fame members are inevitable. 

The most renowned metric for defensive ends is the sack, but what is so fascinating about Watt is the wide-ranging impact he has on the opposition. His career numbers include nine tipped passes, officially listed as passes defended (PD), and 27 tackles for loss (TFL). 

But sacks are what drive the crowd wild. Three of the top-five career sack leaders happened to play defensive end. They are Bruce Smith (200.0), Reggie White (198.0) and Michael Strahan (141.5), who rank first, second and fifth, respectively. 

The right defensive end in the Wade Phillip’s version of the 3-4 plays closer to a 3-technique. Lining up over the guard as much as the tackle, this style is more like a defensive tackle than an end. So to broaden the field, defensive tackles Dan Hampton, John Randle and Kevin Williams will be thrown into the mix.

TFLs are an unofficial stat, so for our purposes we will rely on solo tackles to measure how well these players handled the run. Assisted tackles were not recorded until 1993, so they will be disregarded for this selection of stars.

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