Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt’s rise to stardom wasn’t always a guaranteed one. After all, this is the same dude who struggled to get the ball as a tight end at Central Michigan. J.J. wanted to transfer to Wisconsin, and while waiting for his shot to walk on to the Badgers, he delivered pizzas around his town.
“That was one of those moments where it was like, ‘I want to get back on top,’” Watt said in an interview with ESPN’s John Gruden. “I want to be even better than I was before.”
Now, he delivers enough sacks to be named employee of the month at any pizza joint. As last season’s sack leader and NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year, his tally of 20.5 was only two away from the single-season record. Watt has single-handedly made the Texans’ front line one of the best in the league, and his talents will be critical if the team is to remain a force in the AFC.
As the 11th pick of the 2011 draft, the 6’5, 289 pound bruiser has an incredible mix of strength and agility that allows him to get to the quarterback with ease. On most occasions, the Texans have him rush in between the tackle and the guard, making his sack tally even more impressive. Aldon Smith and Von Miller, Watt’s closest competitors in the pass rush game, didn’t have to slip in between two burly linemen to get their sacks, as they made their living off the edge. Nonetheless, the difference in position hardly seemed like a handicap, as his lightning quick swim move helped him cut through blockers like a hot knife through butter.
The physical punishment he deals is only half of what makes him a terror for QBs around the league — his ability to defend the pass from the line is unparalleled.
“He disrupts everything that you do on offense," said Dolphins guard Richie Incognito.
His hustle has got fans calling him “J.J. Swat,” as he deflected 16 passes last year and set an NFL record for most passes defended by a defensive lineman. His ability to clog the passing lanes was a godsend for the Texans secondary, as it led to broken down plays and easy pick sixes .
J.J. Watt has the best all-around game as a pass rusher, something that often gets underappreciated when compared with the sack numbers. With the swat and sack in his arsenal, Watt is underrated on this list as well. Considering his path from obscurity, though, it’s nothing he isn’t used to. His arrival in Houston has come at the exact time the team has forged its winning culture, and if Watt continues the level of play he has established so far, there will be more winning to come.