When the Rams prepare to face the Texans on November 12 in L.A., coach Sean McVay can thank defensive coordinator Wade Phillips for the lack of sleep McVay will be getting as he prepares to neutralize J.J. Watt.
As explained in his book Son of Bum, Phillips had a key role in the decision of the Texans to draft Watt six years ago. After they got an assist from the 49ers.
Phillips admits that the Texans regarded Aldon Smith as the best pass rusher in the draft, but that he was claimed by San Francisco at pick No. 7. And that was fortunate for the Texans; after showing some dominance early in his career, Smith has washed out of the league due to a variety of off-field problems. He’s still waiting to be reinstated after a permanent banishment with the ability to apply for reinstatement after a year.
As Houston’s pick approached at No. 11 in 2011, coach Gary Kubiak and G.M. Rick Smith said, per Phillips, “We’re not going to be able to get an outside rusher, so we’re going to have to go another direction, maybe offense, or whatever.”
“When I heard that,” Phillips writes, “I thought it was time to speak up.”
Phillips told the room that they could put Mario Williams at outside linebacker and select a defensive lineman to place Williams. So they began to try to predict which defensive lineman would be available at No. 11. They focused eventually on Watt, and Kubiak and Smith put that possibility out to a vote.
“The show of hands was about fifty-fifty,” Phillips explains, “but in my mind it wasn’t close. Watt was the best player for us. I stood up and said, ‘I think we ought to take J.J. Watt. I think this guy can help us.'”
Phillips pointed to Watt’s size, athleticism, and his ability to swat passes at the line of scrimmage. And so the Texans took Watt, who has won the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year award three times in six seasons.
If he can return from that back issues that limited him to three games in 2016, Watt could be in line for a fourth — and he could be in position to create plenty of problems for the L.A. offense when Watt comes to town come November.