J.J. Watt's 2013 Must Not Go Unnoticed Despite Texans' Struggles

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 06:  J.J. Watt #99 of the Houston Texans reacts  during their game against the San Francisco 49ers Candlestick Park on October 6, 2013 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Chris TrapassoAnalyst INovember 16, 2013

J.J. Watt is having another Defensive Player of the Year worthy season, but it's going relatively unnoticed.

That needs to be changed. 

Last year, Watt led the NFL with 20.5 sacks. He batted down 16 passes, forced four fumbles and racked up 81 total tackles on his way to superstardom.

It was a defensive campaign that forever altered the accepted gold standard for defensive campaigns, especially in terms of all-around disruption for a defensive lineman. 

His Houston Texans went 12-4 and won the AFC South for the second year in a row. 

This year, Watt has 6.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, only four batted passes and 42 total tackles through nine games. 

That means, he's on pace for 12 sacks, five forced fumbles, seven batted passes and 75 total tackles—still outrageous numbers. 

HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 23: J.J. Watt #99 of the Houston Texans during warm ups at Reliant Stadium on December 23, 2012 in Houston, Texas. Minnesota Vikings defeat the Houston Texans 23-6. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Bob Levey/Getty Images

Clearly, though, Watt hasn't received the same notoriety as he did in 2012. 

And that makes sense.

His numbers are down, and his Texans are 2-7, destined to miss the playoffs after consecutive trips to the postseason. 

But, what we're witnessing from Watt in 2013 needs to be kept in the proper context. 

Here's a tweet from Pro Football Focus on how tremendous Watt has been this season compared to his defensive contemporaries.

JJ Watt has almost 3x the grade of any other 3-4 DE this season: 61.3 vs 21.0 for the next best.

— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) Nov. 16, 2013

Taking that a step further, the next highest-rated defensive player is 4-3 defensive end Rob Quinn at 36.7 heading into Week 11. 

Just because Watt hasn't be able to recreate his sophomore NFL season—easily one of the greatest individual defensive seasons in the history of the league, if not the greatest—doesn't mean he's been a disappointment. 

The fact that he's been able to remain outrageously disruptive is a feat in and of itself.

He's become the No. 1 priority for every offensive line—double and even triple teams are now the norm.   

Playing 3-4 defensive end is typically a non-glamorous job.

Watt's changed that. 

Take a look at how he's filled the stat sheet compared to some of the league's most effective flashy, edge-rushers.

2013 PFF Statistics
Pass-Rushing Snap Per SackPass-Rushing Snap per QB Pressure (Hit/Hurry/Sack)
J.J. Watt38.45.72
Cameron Wake29.36.17
Robert Quinn245.14
Justin Houston29.85.52
Tamba Hali32.75.45
Von Miller284
Pro Football Focus

Conversely, here's how those same defenders rate against the run.

2013 PFF Run-Stopping Grades
PFF Run-Stopping Grade
J.J. Watt+33.0
Cameron Wake-0.5
Robert Quinn+6.7
Justin Houston+1.2
Tamba Hali-1.8
Von Miller+7.3
Pro Football Focus

Insane, right? 

Last year, Watt's astronomical PFF grades (subscription required) were as follows: 

  • Overall - 101.6
  • Pass-Rushing - 56.3
  • Coverage - 1.5
  • Run-Stopping - 45.5

Stunningly, he's actually on pace to finish with higher overall PFF grade this season.

J.J. Watt's 2013 PFF Pace
Per Game AverageExpected Final Grade
Overall Grade+6.81+108.97
Pass-Rushing Grade+3.37+53.99
Run-Stopping Grade+3.66+58.62
Pro Football Focus

While it's hard to predict how much AP voters factor PFF grades into their respective vote, it's hard to fathom that Watt very well could exceed the monumental grades he earned during his Defensive Player of the Year award-winning campaign in 2012. 

Guys like Robert Mathis, Muhammad Wilkerson, Justin Houston and Richard Sherman are having incredible seasons and are legitimate Defensive Player of the Year candidates. 

But, really, J.J. Watt should be the runaway favorite. 

Again.

 

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