With a league-leading 10.5 sacks and a ridiculous 10 passes defensed already, swat master J.J. Watt is a big reason why the Houston Texans are the AFC’s top seed thus far. And as a result, the second-year pass-rushing king is probably your midseason Defensive Player of the Year.
But the Texans had real trouble the last time they played a top-tier NFC North opponent, so there’s a lot of pressure on Watt this week with the Chicago Bears on the schedule.
J.J. Watt joined Mac and Spiegs on WSCR in Chicago to discuss his emergence as one of the best defensive players in the game, his mobile role in Wade Phillips’ defense, facing Gabe Carimi, his unique ability to get his hands on throws from opposing quarterbacks and what happened in a dud performance against Green Bay a few weeks back.
On his sudden rise in his second season:
“I think it’s just hard work. It’s having a full offseason with Wade Phillips, a lot of hard work, a lot of studying, and obviously a lot of great players around me. I’m on a very good football team, I have a lot of great teammates and they help me create opportunities. And that’s all I can ask for as a player.”
On how he’s being utilized in Wade Phillips’ defense:
“He moves me around. He gives me the opportunity to rush against all different guys across the offensive line. And for me that’s great. As a player, you relish the opportunity to go up against as many guys as possible, and hopefully beat as many guys as possible because it’s kind of like one of those feather-in-your-cap-type deals. So I really enjoy it and it creates a lot of opportunities for not only me, but for my teammates as well. Because teams are obviously trying to do some things double-team-wise, chip-wise, and that also creates opportunities. So it’s a great situation.”
On if college teammate Gabe Carimi knows what to expect from him when they face each other this week:
“I’ve learned a whole lot since then. I’m a much different player. I play a much different position now. So everything has changed and I’m sure he’s changed, too, and I’m sure he’s gotten a lot better as well. It’ll be a good matchup.”
On his incredible ability to swat passes away:
“It’s something I’ve been working on since college. I think it’s something that comes with time and comes with a lot of practice. You know pretty quickly, pretty early in a rush, if you’re going to have a successful pass rush or not, so as soon as you figure out you’re not going to make it there to the quarterback, you try to find another way to impact the play. And for me that’s taking a quick step back and jumping up into the passing lane. Obviously I’ve had some success with it this year, and I think it’s led to four interceptions, so that’s huge for our defense.”
On what happened when Aaron Rodgers and the Packers beat them handily in Week 6:
“I don’t know if it was a wake-up call. It was more or less just us playing a bad football game and Aaron Rodgers and his team playing a great football game. I mean, the guy’s got an MVP and a Super Bowl trophy for a reason.”