J.J. Watt is a top-five talent and the best defensive player in the league

 

J.J. Watt could be in uniform when the open the season Sept. 11 versus the Chicago Bears.

J.J. Watt was the No. 11 overall pick in 2011. As for T.J., .com analyst Charley Casserly projects him to be selected No. 22 overall by the Miami Dolphins. J.J. himself doesn’t believe it’s so far-fetched. He said earlier this week that he believes his younger brother is better than he was at the same stage. And let’s not pretend that J.J. Watt was a finished product when he entered the pros.

Watt said he had zero problems with his back and his body felt fine a day after the game. He played 49 snaps in his return, 17th most among interior defenders but ranked 94th according to Pro Football Focus grades.

As the transcendent defensive force of his generation, Watt is widely viewed as the NFL’s most valuable non-quarterback. Houston’s chances of winning a pair of home games versus the Chicago Bears and Kansas City Chiefs take a sizable hit if Watt doesn’t suit up.

“J.J. was good at Wisconsin, but he wasn’t dominant,” Zierlein said earlier this year. “His motor was relentless and you could see the talent, but it didn’t really click for J.J. as far as how to use his strength and power until about halfway through his rookie year.”

“Yeah, he feels great,” coach Bill O’Brien said. “It’s really a testament to him to be able to come back from that type of surgery in July and play in an cheap jerseys china NFL football game. I mean I don’t know how many guys could do that. First of all, I give a lot of credit to him. He knows that he needs to go out there and play better.

“I’m sure he’ll be the first one to tell you that. As the game went on, I thought he played better and better. He was getting more used to the speed of the game. He hadn’t played in a long time. No training camp. I think you’ll see the more he plays, he’ll be back to what you’re looking for.”

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J.J. Watt will have to wait until next season to make a serious run at an unprecedented fourth NFL Defensive Player of the Year award.

Although Watt has yet to miss a game in his five-year career, coach Bill O’Brien recently acknowledged to ESPN’s Ed Werder that the Texans are still unsure if the three-time Defensive Player of the Year will be available for the first two regular-season contests.

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As I look back through my old scouting reports on the top pass rushers I’ve evaluated over the years based on their collegiate performance and production, it’s not a coincidence that speed, athleticism and explosiveness are the common traits that show up in the elites at the position. The most disruptive playmakers at the position dominate games with their electric athletic traits and it’s hard to find a blue-chip pass rusher in the game without elite athleticism.

One week after coach Bill O’Brien acknowledged that Watt was in jeopardy of missing the season’s first two games, the three-time Defensive Player of the Year is poised to return to the practice field.

That type of style will play well in the always-physical AFC North and allow head coach Mike Tomlin a rotational player to flip with 2015 first-rounder Bud Dupree and the ageless James Harrison. Pittsburgh will now have recent first-round picks at nearly all of their linebacker spots, cornerback and defensive end. Four of their last five first-round picks have been linebackers.

The Texans re-signed veteran defensive end Antonio Smith for depth, the team announced.

A fourth-year pro out of Michigan State, Bell watches Brown every day, logging how he releases, how he cuts in and out of breaks and how he runs his routes. He works on his timing with Roethlisberger as a receiver would, and there was a clear pride in his voice this week when he said he feels much more fluid than he did a year ago.

During his suspension, when he couldn’t work with his teammates, Bell said he ran routes every day and caught anywhere between 100 and 200 balls afterwards. If rushing the ball is instinctual, running routes is more about repetitions, and understanding defensive coverages.

This is the part Haley called “fun” on Thursday. When he was Kansas City’s head coach, Haley had a diverse backfield featuring Jamaal Charles, Thomas Jones and — and he found creative ways to mix and match their skill sets. Haley brought up his time as an assistant with the Jets, too, when New York had Curtis Martin and Richie Anderson, who was listed as a fullback but carried the ball and one year caught 88 passes.

Now that Watt is once again flashing Pro Bowl form, per NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport, the team’s brass believes the defense is absolutely loaded with talent this year.