In a near unanimous decision, Houston Texans DE J.J. Watt was named the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year at the second annual NFL Honors award’s show Saturday night. It was nearly unanimous, as Watt received 49 out of 50 votes from the Associated Press panel of NFL writers.
Von Miller of the Denver Broncos got the lone vote that Watt did not receive. In his second season, the 23-year old Watt became the second youngest player to ever win the prestigious award. Hall Of Famer Lawrence Taylor was 22-years old when he won it in 1981.
The landslide vote was befitting of the season Watt had, which was one of the most dominant defensive seasons in NFL history. He led the league with 20.5 sacks, two short of the single season record held by Michael Strahan. The fact that he did it as a defensive end in a 3-4 defense is even more astounding. Watt was far more than just a pass rusher however, he disrupted opposing offenses on a weekly basis.
If he wasn’t getting to the quarterback this season, he was frustrating them by swatting down/deflecting their passes at the line of scrimmage. He had 16 passes defensed, the most ever in league history by a defensive lineman. He became the only player in NFL history to record at least 15 sacks and 15 passes defensed in the same season.
Despite constant double and triple-teams, Watt just couldn’t be stopped in 2012. He led the Texans 107 tackles, including 39 for a loss, 42 quarterback hits and 4 forced fumbles. He was second on the team with 81 solo tackles, the most of any defensive lineman in the league, and 2 fumble recoveries.
Watt was no doubt the lynchpin of a Houston defense that finished in the top 10 in both yards and points allowed. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, knew he had a special player in Watt following his rookie year last season.
Many people thought that Phillips was being over exuberant when he was asked at training camp what he thought about Watt’s rookie season and his potential going forward. His response was, “He’s going to be a bust — not a first-round bust but a bust in the Hall of Fame. The only players I’ve seen that can do what he can do with his intensity can be found in Canton.”
Turns out that after Watt’s encore performance in his second season, that Phillips may not have been too far off on that proclamation. Of course you don’t get put into the Hall of Fame based off of two seasons, but that’s the scary part for the offenses across the league. Watt is only 23 and if he is dominating now, imagine what his ceiling will be over the next five to ten years. Barring injury, Watt has the potential to go down as the best defensive end to play the game, which would be remarkable for a kid who not long ago had to walk on at Wisconsin to earn a scholarship.
That distinction is a long way off, but he was definitely the best defensive player in the game in 2012.
The AP Defensive Player of the Year capped off a long list of awards and accolades for Watt this season. He was one of two unanimous selections to the AP All-Pro team, along with league MVP Adrian Peterson. He also was named the Pro Football Weekly/Pro Football Writers Association Defensive MVP and the NFL 101 AFC Defensive Player of the Year. Include the AFC Defensive Player of the Month in September and December, being voted a starter in his first Pro Bowl, and being selected as the Texans team MVP, and it was an unforgettable season for #99. Watt has already stated, “My second year is not going to be my best year in the NFL, I promise you that.”
Sounds like trouble for the rest of the league.