As seen on tonight's "NFL Honors," Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt has now notched yet another achievement that no other player in the history of the NFL can claim – three AP Defensive Player of the Year trophies in a four year stretch. In fact, only one other defender has ever won three DPOY awards--Giants great Lawrence Taylor, but he did so over the course of a longer six-year period ('81, '82, '86).
Watt, who is still only 26 years old, has averaged 14.9 sacks per year over his first five seasons, bringing his career total to an already robust 74.5 sacks. For comparison’s sake, those 74.5 total sacks are second all-time for a player’s first five cumulative seasons, trailing only the legendary Reggie White (81.0). Behind Watt on that list is a Who’s Who of defensive icons, including Derrick Thomas (66.0), DeMarcus Ware (64.5), Richard Dent (61.5), Jared Allen (57.5), and Bruce Smith (57.5). It’s rare to say this after only five years of playing time, but the JuggerWatt may have already secured his place in the Hall of Fame before he even hits the prime of his career. If that doesn’t scare the rest of the AFC South’s offensive coordinators, I don’t know what will.
Watt had plenty of worthy competition for the award this year. Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald was a one-man wrecking crew in 2015, with 37 quarterback hits and 11 sacks (Watt had 50 QB hits and 17.5 sacks, by way of comparison), and the Super Bowl bound Carolina Panthers had two incredibly talented nominees themselves in Luke Keuchly and Josh Norman.
When all is said and done, however, Watt still is (and always was) the most dominant individual player in the league. The numbers suggest it, the eye test confirms it, and even Watt’s peers agree with it. Donald, Kuechly, and Norman are all tremendous football players who deserve every bit of praise that is being thrown their way, but unfortunately for them they just happen to be playing in the same era as Justin James Watt.