Houston Texans: Without Watt Can They Compete?
By Bob Dove
The Texans don’t have to replace three time defensive player of the year J. J. Watt.
That Watt never appeared for the 2016 Texans. The numbers show that in 2016 J. J. Watt was a fairly ordinary NFL defensive end. Of course the statistics don’t show the extent to which he was double and triple teamed, but there are not a lot of tackles and sacks to replace.
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That is not a knock on Watt. He battled, but he simply wasn’t healthy. The point is that the Texans went 2-1 with a mere mortal at defensive end, and with Brown, Martin and Cushing all sidelined. But, just as Watt joins Martin on IR, Cushing and Brown return to practice on a limited basis. Hopefully they will be available for the Vikings game or soon thereafter. That’s a start.
Fan favorite, the long of tooth but competent run stopper, Antonio Smith replaces Watt on the roster. If Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus are able to effectively deal with the double teams previously directed at Watt and if Cushing returns to pre-injury form the defense should be comparable to that of the first three games. That’s a lot of “ifs”, but it can happen.
In that configuration the defense will not be as good as the defense projected in June with super star J. J. Watt in the line-up. However, it can be comparable to the defense that throttled the Bears and Chiefs. It did the same to the Patriots except for two short field gifts by Texans special teams and one long run from scrimmage in garbage time.
Can the defense approach the June projection or “The Good” scenario? No. Does that mean the Texans are doomed to underperform the 10-6 regular season record projected in June? No. It means the offense must play better than it has so far to offset the diminished defense. Give more points. Score more points. The “W” is all that counts.