For this week's "Great Leap Forward," we need to first take a trip in the "way-back" machine. We're not going far, fear not gentle reader, just to April 28, 2011: the date of the NFL Draft. It was a crazy time then...hope for quick end to the lockout was about as likely as Alison Brie showing up at my front door wearing nothing but Saran Wrap and holding a permission slip from my wife, I was still molding the minds of America's youth...occasionally without resorting to heavy clubs, and we were all anxious to see what kind of impact, if any, Wade Phillips would have on our draft this year.
As many of you recall at this time, the Texans had the 11th pick in the draft. The only pick off the board that the Texans had a shot at and actually had a need for was Aldon Smith, leaving the boys in battle red with what basically amounted to a pick they couldn't possibly screw up. Still available were North Carolina DE Robert Quinn, Auburn DT Nick Fairley, Nebraska CB Prince Amukamara, and California DE Cameron Jordan (who I thought they would take), all of whom were wanted badly by various BRB denizens. The Texans rejected those answers. Instead, they chose something different. They chose the impossible. They chose...J.J. Watt, defensive end from Wisconsin.
Here are some of the more choice phrases from that day.
Way to (bleeping) (bleep) up an un(bleep)upable pick.
Seriously? (bleeping) JJ Watttt??
I'M GOING TO KILL SMITHIAK!
And from Ethan Matz:
We had Fairley.WE HAD FAIRLEY
A lot has changed since the draft, and cooler heads have prevailed since Watt's selection; especially with news like this emerging about him. To learn more about how the Honey Badger will contribute to the defense's Great Leap Forward, jump in the line, rock your body in time (okay, I believe you).
Why J.J. Watt can succeed in Wade Phillips' defense - As MDC mentioned in his post, Phillips' DEs play a one-gap system. In this video of Watt playing against TCU in the Rose Bowl, Watt has little trouble shooting the gap against the Horned Frogs' offensive line and getting pressure on the quarterback; specific examples, for those of you who don't want to see the awesomeness that is J.J. Watt in its entirety, can be found at the 3:21, 3:25, and 3:34 marks in the video. He does a great job of reading and reacting to the play in question (:45 mark in Rose Bowl, or the 5:10 mark in this video of Watt playing against Michigan State). What I really enjoyed in these videos is watching J.J. Watt stay in the play when he's been effectively taken out of it. In particular, I point at the 6:57 mark in the Michigan State video (it's times like this that make me wish I knew how to post GIFs of game film like Rivers' posts). He's clearly out of the play after tripping over the one Spartan, but that doesn't stop him from chasing down the ball carrier and nearly closing in on him. I love seeing determination like that, and that's just one of several instances I found in watching footage of him playing.
Potential problems that could face J.J. Watt - Honestly, I think the biggest concern I have about J.J. Watt is the typical rookie starter worries. He's not going up against the relatively porous Michigan State offensive line in the NFL. He has to prove he can go up against linemen like Joe Thomas, Michael Oher, and Jake Long, all of whom the Texans play this season. That said, there's a part of me that is really interested in seeing Watt play against rookie Colts linemen Anthony Castonzo and Ben Ijalana. What does concern me about Watt is that his technique could use some improvement. He gets kind of high in his stance and really needs to improve his run defense. These issues are easily coachable, though, especially with a coaching staff that knows what it's doing.
Expectations and Pointless Predictions - Watt has shown he can get into the backfield consistently in college, whether he can do it against NFL talent remains to be determined. From what I've seen, he's got the tools to cause a lot of trouble for quarterbacks, and he can unlearn some of his bad habits against the run. Predictions: 46 tackles, 24 tackles for a loss, 6 sacks and 2 interceptions.
So tell me what y'all think about J.J. Watt now that we've had a couple of months to get used to him!