|HOUSTON TEXANS 3-4 DE JJ WATT|
Written by: Craig Shelton
Date posted: 9/18/2012
If you're a subscriber to the opinion that witnessing Houston Texans second-year defensive lineman, JJ Watt, play defensive end in Wade Phillip's 3-4 scheme is history in the making, your analysis has a foundation fortified with the work ethic and heart of a champion.
Perhaps one of the most impressive attributes I've had the luxury of observing in Watt's short career occurred ironically enough off the field. Before this year's pre-season opener against the Carolina Panthers, Watt sustained his first injury of any significance in his NFL career during Training Camp.
This offered an unsuspected resource of insight into Watt's mental makeup. What occurred would likely go unnoticed had it been carried out by an injured street free agent or sixth- or seventh-round draft pick. But when a high first round draft pick coming off a defining-statement of a rookie season gets injured and is spotted carrying the team's water cooler around to his teammates at practice, as if he were some rookie going through hazing, it gets the eye of those lucky enough to be a part of the Texans' practice experience. Watt answers the bell in every aspect on and off the field and has become the face of the defense at minimum, and arguably the entire team.
What makes Watt so special? Why is he having so much success and why is he having it so early in his young career?
SUCCESS THROUGH SACRIFICE
Theoretically speaking, a fundamental of the 3-4 defense is the premise of defensive linemen (DL) sacrificing playmaking opportunities at the first level of the 3-4, to allow playmakers at the second level (linebackers/LBs) to make plays in the run and pass-rushing games. Typically speaking, when 3-4 defensive linemen line up in a "3" technique, they have two gap responsibilities in the run game and are a sacrificial component in the pass rush, that will tie up two blocking offensive linemen.
What JJ Watt has been able to accomplish is to buck the trend of expectations of 3-4 defensive linemen when they're lined up in the "3" technique. Watt consistently is disciplined in his assignments in the "3" technique, but what he's done is make plays in the run and pass-rush game for the Texans. He's the only 3-4 defensive end in the NFL who has etched out a game-changing signature pass-rush move, that does not require him actually laying a hand on the quarterback. Watt's ability to bat down passes from the "3" technique as well as the "5", has allowed him to lap his peers in that regard.
JJ Watt's uncanny ability to make game-changing plays when he's lined up in the "3" technique is the primary X&O component to the awe-inspiring performances we've been fortunate enough to witness as Texans observers. Watt's game-changing playmaking abilities at the "3" technique is the equivalent of a 1,500-yard rusher, the likes of Arian Foster, adding the attribute of becoming a 1000-yard receiver out of the backfield to his game.
It's a reasonable expectation to expect an elite 3-4 defensive end to make big plays when lined up in a "5" technique, as well as having some relative level of success inside in the "3" technique. It's an entirely different level of accomplishment when a 3-4 defensive end is beating up right tackles in the "5" technique, as well as putting beat downs on right guards culminating in timely big plays on a game-to-game basis!
If the expectation of Watt when he was drafted was that he'd be effective inside and get good penetration off the edge as well due to his high motor, he's surpassed that expectation.
What's apparent in Watt's level of expectation for himself is his primary driving force. He's a self-motivated guy. Watt clearly has retained learnings from coachable moments in his college career, as well as his brief professional career with the Texans. This is evidenced by the amount of successful frames in his game that have translated successfully from the University of Wisconsin to the Texans. His ability to get penetration into the backfield, solid tackling skills, and his ability to create pass deflections, all have translated well to the NFL level.
JJ Watt is the prototype 3-4 defensive end and is a coach's blessing when he goes into full throttle, "JJ Watt 3 & 5 technique BEAST MODE!"
JJ Watt's Stats through two games follow:
Total tackles - 8Unassisted tackles - 6
Assisted tackles – 2
Sacks – 3.0
Fumbles Recovered – 1
Passes defended – 5
Stuffs – 1
Stuff yards - 4