The Indianapolis Colts’ offensive line will have its hands full, when the Houston Texans’ J.J. Watt is lining up across from them in the trenches come Sunday. The 6’5″, 289 pound, Watt is the runaway favorite for NFL Defensive Player of the Year this season. Having previously won the award in 2012, Watt is having yet again another dominant season with 58 tackles, 14.5 sacks, and 3 forced fumbles, including an 80-yard interception for a touchdown.
During the last time these two teams previously met in Week 6 at Houston, Watt nearly single-handedly stole the game from the Colts’ clutches. He had 7 tackles (4 solo), 2 sacks, 3 TFL, 3 passes deflected, and 4 QB Hits, as Indianapolis simply had no answer for the 4th-year All-Pro. Most impressive; however, was his own forced fumble that he recovered and took 45 yards for a touchdown with 10:36 left in the 4th quarter:
Oct 9, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (99) in action against the Indianapolis Colts at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Fortunately, the Colts were able to narrowly escape 33-28, but Watt had clearly made his presence felt on that Thursday Night Football game. He was incredibly disruptive, and it made it awfully challenging for QB Andrew Luck and the Colts to maintain any offensive flow.
Much to this dismay of the Colts, this matchup couldn’t come at a worse time this season. The offensive line has two of its starters in center Jonotthan Harrison (neck) and right guard Hugh Thornton (knee) banged up with injuries, although Harrison was a full participant in practice on Wednesday while Thornton did not participate. Thornton’s primary back-up, Joe Reitz (“doubtful”), is also battling an ankle injury and has not practiced either this week (DNP).
With both Thornton and Reitz’s availability for Sunday in serious doubt, J.J. Watt can expect to see either A.Q. Shipley or Khaled Holmes at starting right guard, which doesn’t necessarily bode well for the Colts’ chances. While A.Q. Shipley filled in admirably for Harrison at center last Sunday and Holmes for Reitz as well, J.J. Watt is a different animal entirely:
"“He’s damn near unblockable; he does it all. He’s a nightmare,”said Indianapolis head coach Chuck Pagano."
According to the advanced statistics provided by ProFootballFocus, J.J. Watt is the #1 overall graded defensive end in the NFL at a +76.6 overall grade. As a testament to his dominance, the next highest graded defensive end is the Jets’ Muhammad Wilkerson at +29.9 overall. Perhaps even more scary is his pass rush grade of +68.0 at 1st compared to the defensive end in 2nd, the Redskins’ Jason Hatcher at +18.3.
Did I mention he’s a different animal?
"“We’ve seen, obviously, some great ones through the years,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “This guy is phenomenal football player, best at his position right now. This guy has impacted the game as much as anybody, especially at his position. He’s catching [touchdown] passes, lining him up in goal-line and short-yardage situations. He looks like [New England tight end Rob] Gronkowski out there running around.”"
With 5 total touchdowns on the season, the Colts will have to be careful that it doesn’t become 6. He’s a player that has to be accounted for at all times on both the defensive and even offensive end. The Colts already know what to expect, a handful:
"“He certainly has that ability to change a game in one play. You know where he is…We have a lot of respect for him. We have a lot of respect for everyone that steps on the field for them,” said Colts’ quarterback Andrew Luck."
Nov 3, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) looks for an open receiver during the second quarter as Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (99) applies pressure at Reliant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports