When Bill O'Brien hired Romeo Crennel as his defensive coordinator in Houston, there was some concern about how J.J. Watt would fit in Crennel's scheme. That concern has proven to be misplaced, as Watt continued his revelatory ways in his first season under Crennel, winning his second Defensive Player of the Year award and finishing second in the NFL MVP voting.
Part of Watt's excellence last year was his ability to line up all over the field. MMQB's Jenny Vrentas as an entertaining piece on why Watt has the freedom he does on the Texans' defense, and it's due in large part to Crennel's experience with the last defensive player to win NFL MVP.
[Lawrence] Taylor essentially had carte blanche to line up wherever he thought he had the best chance to make a play, and the disorienting effect on offenses was not lost on Romeo Crennel, who coached special teams and then the defensive line on Parcells’ staff. So when Crennel arrived in Houston with O’Brien last year to be the Texans’ defensive coordinator, he gave Watt his blessing to move around wherever he wanted, with Taylor in mind.
"He could be here, he could be there, he could be anywhere. That’s one of the beauties of the call," Crennel says. "The better the player is, the more successful it has been. So with a Lawrence Taylor and a J.J. Watt, it’s very successful."
"Lawrence Taylor was a special kind of player, but having him in one place, offenses began to scheme for him in that one place," Crennel says. "When we were able to pick him up and let him move around, they couldn’t necessarily scheme for him. He can look at the formation, he can look at the backfield set, look at the blockers and decide where he wants to go, and then the rest of the defense worked around it. And that’s similar to what we're doing with J.J."
From Watt himself:
How many options could you have in any defensive call?
Watt: "Heh, heh, heh. On any call, really, I could do just about anything, as long as I make sure it’s communicated with the rest of the guys."
How late before the snap can you decide what you’re going to do?
Watt: "Heh, heh, heh. That’s one thing that, as the year went on, you can start to make it later and later because we got more and more comfortable. That’s why, in Romeo’s second year, we’re so in sync and we’re so far ahead of where we were a year ago at this time. They know what I’m thinking, I know what they're thinking, so all we need to do is a look, or a little hand signal, and we're good to go."
Keep that in mind when you're watching where J.J. Watt lines up on Sunday in the regular season opener against the Chiefs.
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