Texans J.J. Watt: probably the NFL’s best defender

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J.J. Watt has come so far. I know, you’ve heard this story before. Well, not all of you know he was delivering pizzas in 2007 and buried on the Central Michigan depth chart. You Wisconsin Badgers people know this tale, and may be sick of it by now.

However, the rest of the nation needs to know how J.J. Watt came to be the 2012 NFL Defensive Player of the Year; receiving 49/50 votes. For the NFL on NBC Football Night in America conference call, Watt was a hot topic. Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison chimed in.

Tony Dungy: “I remember Warren Sapp when I coached him in Tampa and he had that breakout year. The next year you are going to see people game plan for you. J.J. Watt is going to have a great year, but he is going to have to deal with more blocking schemes and more ways to try to slow him down.

If he puts up the same type of numbers that he did this year I think it will be a tremendous credit to him, because every offensive coordinator that plays them is going to try to stop him from dominating the games like that – he will have his hands full.”

J.J. Watt, statistically, had one of the best all-time seasons in the NFL defensively. Again, when he came to Wisconsin, no one could have ever imagined he’d be this dominant some day at the highest level. Up in Madison he rose from total obscurity to win the Lott Trophy and become a finalist for the Hendricks Award, won by Big Ten rival Whitney Mercilus of the Illini. Who is today his teammate in Houston.

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Rodney Harrison: “To add to J.J. Watt, the one beautiful thing about J.J. Watt – we watch a lot of tape of him and his versatility. You can put him at left guard, left tackle, you know, left end. You can put him basically anywhere on the defense and he is going to be productive.

So if you are defense coordinator you want to become creative with J.J. Watt so the offense can’t identify him and say, ‘Hey, J.J. Watt, he is always going to be the left defensive end.’

Let’s move him around. Let’s make him the right tackle. Let’s make him the right end. Now the game plan changes, and you can’t really just focus on that one guy and I think that is the beautiful part about it.

But with Brian Cushing, this defense could be really special and I think J.J. Watt – the one thing I like about him is just his work ethic.”

Paul M. Banks is the owner of The Sports Bank.net, an affiliate of Fox Sports. An analyst for 95.7 The Fan, he also writes on Chicago sports media for Chicago Now. Follow him (@paulmbanks)

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