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J.J. Watt wants to break the mold

Miami Dolphins v Houston Texans Getty Images

With a compelling back story that includes playing tight end in the MAC and walking on at Wisconsin and borrowing money from his parents and delivering pizza to help pay tuition, Texans defensive end J.J. Watt was blazing trails long before coming to the NFL.

Now, he wants to change the way 3-4 defensive ends are perceived.

I’m trying to break the mold,” Watt recently said, via Paul Kuharsky of ESPN.com.  “A lot of people keep telling me that, that we’re not allowed to make plays or we’re not supposed to make plays.  One of the things is that Coach Phillips puts me in great position to have success, he gives me great opportunities.  And I think another thing is just having the belief, and not buying into this thing where you can’t make plays.”

Ordinarily, 3-4 defensive ends are responsible for tying up offensive linemen, so that the linebackers can get to the man with the football.  Former Steelers defensive end Aaron Smith was among the best to ever fulfill that role, even though it meant toiling in relative anonymity.

There’s nothing anonymous about Watt.

“I mean, I don’t know why people say that you can’t make plays,” Watt said.  “If you bust your tail and you’re rushing the passer, you’re going to get a sack. If you’re chasing down a runner from the back side and you beat your blocker, you’re going to get a [tackle for loss].  I don’t see why you have to be a block-eater.”

Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips says that great talent can overcome the pigeonhole tendencies of defensive line play in his alignment of choice.

“That’s why we don’t play a conventional 3-4,” Phillips said.  “In the Phillips’ 3-4, my dad’s 3-4, he said, ‘Elvin Bethea isn’t going to play two-gap, he can stunt, he can move, let’s get him on the move where he can make plays, because he’s a great player.’  You do what your players can do, you can utilize that kind of personnel in our defense.”

The Texans have that kind of personnel, and they’re utilizing it.

And Watt isn’t just breaking the mold, he’s smashing it –presumably with that Iron Mike Sharpe-looking contraption that Watt is wearing to protect an elbow that was dislocated during camp.

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18 Responses to “J.J. Watt wants to break the mold”
  1. dapell says: Sep 28, 2012 10:21 AM

    JJ used to deliver my pizza when we lived in Pewaukee. It was probably 2007 and he worked for Pizza Hut. Really tall blonde kid with who always remembered to bring (and not charge) us for an extra sauce for our breadsticks. He was skinnier then but always friendly.

  2. djaehne says: Sep 28, 2012 10:23 AM

    JJ is a beast on a defense that is one of the best in the league. Go Texans!

  3. siriusred67 says: Sep 28, 2012 10:24 AM

    Bruce Smith was a 3-4 DE, and he was a heck of a playmaker.

  4. sportsmeccabi says: Sep 28, 2012 10:25 AM

    He’s better than Aaron Smith ever was.

  5. 2ndaryinsanity says: Sep 28, 2012 10:27 AM

    J J Watt is the reason no one shed any tears when Mario Williams left. This guy is the real deal…he never takes a play off (unlike Mario) and makes impact plays in every single game. The Texans have done a good job assembling talent on defense…Brian Cushing, J J Watt, Brooks Reed, etc. It’s hard to believe what a quick turnaround our defense has made…from one of the worst to one of the best in just a few years. Wade Phillips isn’t a very good head coach, but damn…he’s an amazing defensive coach!
    IF Schaub, Foster, and Johnson can stay healthy… the Texans could go all the way this year.

  6. dalucks says: Sep 28, 2012 10:43 AM

    Give credit to Wade Phillips for utilizing his personal. The only defensive coordinators the media talk about is Rex and Rob Ryan but they fail to mention the guys who coach good defenses like Dick Lebaugh and Wade Phillips. For a Texans fan who has watched terrible defenses prior to the arrival of Wade, I want to thank Wade Phillips and I hope the Texans retired his clipboard in ten plus years as a defensive coordinator. Houston’s favorite son has come home, now that is a story worth writing.

  7. texansdude says: Sep 28, 2012 10:44 AM

    He is just an outstanding mix of talent and effort every play. I hope he stays healthy, because this guy is amazingly special.

  8. trollhammer20 says: Sep 28, 2012 10:46 AM

    Reminds me more of Justin Smith than Aaron Smith.

  9. bcfalcon says: Sep 28, 2012 11:06 AM

    He’s is a beast of a player. it’s amazing how much wade Phillips has turned that defense around!

  10. gojags says: Sep 28, 2012 11:10 AM

    JJ is a very good player bound to be great. I hate to see him play against my team.

  11. situsavaisprier says: Sep 28, 2012 11:16 AM

    Very good player on a very good defense. I’m a Giants fan, but I’ve always liked the Texans as my 2nd team ever since they entered the league. Long story short I loved Aaron Glenn and followed him there when he wasn’t a Jet anymore.

  12. skruf1er says: Sep 28, 2012 11:26 AM

    I believe that mold has already been broken by Justin Smith, who was arguably the best player on the best defense last year and made All Pro at two different positions.

  13. northerntanned says: Sep 28, 2012 11:38 AM

    I was very disappointed that my team didn’t get a chance to draft him. He may be the defensive player of the year very soon. I actually stop and take time just to watch what he does from play to play. I don’t think I’ve ever done that with a 3-4 end before. Another question…how many 3-4 lineman have ever won the defensive player of the year?

  14. majbobby says: Sep 28, 2012 11:47 AM

    Hate to tell everyone there is a guy that Broke the Mold Long ago…..

    Rated #31 NFL Player of all-time by NFL.com

    11× Pro Bowl selection (1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998)

    9× First-team All-Pro selection (1987, 1988,1990, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997)

    2× Second-team All-Pro selection (1989,1998)

    4× AFC Champion (1990, 1991, 1992, 1993)

    NFL 1980s All-Decade Team

    NFL 1990s All-Decade Team

    2× AP Defensive Player of the Year (1990, 1996)

    3× PFWA Defensive Player of the Year (1990, 1993, 1996)

    2× NEA Defensive Player of the Year (1990, 1993)

    4× UPI AFC Defensive Player of the Year (1987, 1988, 1990, 1996)

    1987 Pro Bowl MVP

    Buffalo Bills Wall of Fame

    2× First-team All-America (1983, 1984)

    1984 Outland Trophy

    Hall of Fame Inductee

    Holds the All Time Sack Record.

    His Name is Bruce Smith.

  15. mikeinsanfran says: Sep 28, 2012 12:39 PM

    He is in the mold of JUSTIN SMITH who, you know, has already been breaking that mold.

  16. thehighhat says: Sep 28, 2012 1:01 PM

    The next Justin Smith…

  17. johntonioholmes says: Sep 28, 2012 11:00 PM

    trollhammer20

    Definitely. Aaron Smith tied up blockers and only rushed the passer when he was asked to. Justin Smith ties up blockers BECAUSE he is rushing the passer and they need at least 2 guys to block him.

    It’s a completely different system but both guys set a standard that is going to be hard to match…although Watt seems to be doing just that.

    I’d love to see a defense featuring 2 of those three ends (with all of them in their prime of course).

  18. texansarebetterthanyourteam says: Sep 30, 2012 12:31 AM

    JJ SWATT is much more dynamic than Justin Smith. Sacks, passes batted down, and TFL. Best defensive lineman in the game so far this season

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