J.J. Watt is one of the best players in the NFL even as he enters his 30s. He’s the entirety of the Texans’ pass rush, obliterating offensive tackles and creating enough pressure to spoonfeed sacks to the rest of his teammates.
Pro Football Focus is ranking individual players at each position group prior to the beginning of the 2020 NFL season. Despite Watt’s injury history and age, PFF has him ranked as the best edge defender in the league. This is what they have to say:
It’s possible to forget that J.J. Watt was once the most devastating defensive force in the NFL before injuries began to attack that player and Aaron Donald arrived on the scene. Watt hasn’t quite got back to that level, but he’s gotten a lot closer than many think. His overall PFF grade in 2018 — his first healthy season since 2015 — was 90.5, and through the first eight games of last year, he was leading the league in total pressures before a pectoral injury took him out. Watt is still an elite-level pass-rusher and has been inching back towards his best form. If he can take another small step in that direction in 2020, he will still be the league’s best edge defender and a true Defensive Player of the Year candidate.
If Watt can stay healthy, all of this rings true. The problem is he’s played just one healthy season since 2016, and that was when Jadeveon Clowney was still on the roster. Without including that season, Watt played a total of 16 games in three years. Including 2016, it comes out to 32 games over four seasons.
Hopefully Watt stays healthy and manages to play a full sixteen games in 2020. Houston is completely dependent on his health. If he plays, the Texans could have an average pass rush. If he doesn’t, the entire unit will fall apart. Watching Houston Texans football is a less enjoyable affair without #99 out there.