Could Houston Texans Defensive End J.J. Watt Actually Improve in 2013?

By Mike Kerns
Brett Davis – USA TODAY Sports

No one around the league has been able to deny the historically great season that Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt had in 2012. He led the league in sacks (20.5), batted down 16 passes and was named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year. He’s also one of the best defensive linemen in the NFL against the run and isn’t a one-dimensional pass rusher.

So why is it that the statement “he’s not going to have as good of a year in 2013 as he did last year” seems to be attached to any assessment, national or local, of the upcoming season for Watt?

There is no other way of looking at what Watt was able to accomplish in 2012. It is up for debate as the greatest single season for a defensive player in the Super Bowl era. Therefore, it’s easy to assume that this kind of performance will never be duplicated. My argument for it being possible, even if it is unlikely, is that we have to remember that not only is this guy just 24 years young, but he was playing with an injury all of last year.

Watt is now fully healthy and even though he claims the torn ligaments in his elbow that he played with for all of 2012 didn’t hinder him too much, it’s still an amazing feat of toughness and determination. In all of my years of watching pro football, I’ve never seen a guy with his athletic ability that brought it one hundred percent on every play.

A term that gets used by the Texans coaching staff, probably a little too much, is “high motor.” But it’s difficult to find a phrase that better defines Watt. Not only is he a high motor guy, but said motor doesn’t seem to turn off.


Last year, Wade Phillips caught a lot of flack for proclaiming that Watt was “going to be a bust. Not a first-round bust, but a bust in the Hall of Fame.” Now, just one season removed, his teammate Brian Cushing is taking that statement even further.

“The things that he’s going to be able to accomplish are unbelievable. When you talk about the potential that he has of really being the greatest defensive player ever, he could be.”

Most may think that this is just a teammate having your back, but Cushing also added that it’s difficult for him to give others credit. So to say that about Watt might just hold a little more weight than usual.

Back to his 2013 season, though; why is it automatically assumed that Watt can’t have just as big of a season this year as last? Sure, the law of averages says there has to be some regression to the mean. Teams will plan more effectively against him now and we even saw the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars draft pieces just to account for Watt and his impact in the disruption game.

Look, the guy didn’t age ten years overnight. He’s still a very young man with a work ethic that is through the roof. To think that he is any less hungry this season than last would be a premature line of thinking.

He may not have 20-plus sacks again this season, but he might have one more tipped pass. Chances are he won’t duplicate all of the tips he did in 2012, but does that mean he won’t make more tackles for loss?

Always hearing fans and analysts preface every statement about Watt with “He’s a special player, and he’s going to be really good this year, but there’s no way he is as good as last season” just seems like a wild assumption to me.

He may not match the stats he did in 2012, but I’m betting his overall effect on the game is even bigger in 2013.


Mike Kerns is a Houston Texans writer for Follow him on Twitter, “Like” his page on Facebook or add him to your network on Google. You can also subscribe to his Texans podcast on iTunes.

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