Brian Cushing: J.J. Watt could be the best defensive player ever

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Texans defensive end J.J. Watt had one of the best seasons for any defensive player in NFL history last year, and he was only 23 years old. One of his teammates, Brian Cushing, thinks seasons like that will become the norm for Watt.

ESPN’s NFL 32 quoted Cushing as saying Watt could become the greatest defensive player ever.

That’s a bold statement, but we’re becoming accustomed to bold statements about Watt from those who watch him work every day. Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said of Watt at the end of the 2012 season, “He had the best season ever. Nobody’s ever had a season like that.” And Phillips, who has spent 35 years as a defensive line coach, defensive coordinator or head coach in the NFL, knows what he speaks of when he discusses defensive line play.

Watt really is a unique player, a 3-4 defensive end who didn’t just lead the league in sacks with 20.5 but also knocked down another 16 passes and is great against the run as well. It’s silly, in a sense, to talk in “best ever” terms about a guy who’s only played two seasons, but it’s not crazy to think that when Watt is ready to leave the game in 10 or 15 years, he’ll deserve to be mentioned among the very best who have ever played.

67 responses to “Brian Cushing: J.J. Watt could be the best defensive player ever

  1. Watt should’ve been named co-MVP last year. We may not see another defensive player have that dominant a year in our life times…

  2. JJ grew up in Wisconsin watching the great Reggie White. Now he’s become a modern day version of him. Plus he’s a great guy, wish him all the best. My favorite non-Packers player.

  3. Sky’s the limit, best shape of my life, the rehab is way ahead of schedule, best player ever. Are other fans as tired of the off season pronouncements as I am?
    Watt is a fantastic player playing on a great D but he isn’t close to Reggie White who could pick him up and fling him 10 yards down the field.

  4. I’m not a Texans fan, nor am I a hater of them. I think he is a beast, and I am sure he gives o-linemen restless nights! I think he is a once in a generation type player that teams will start to try to find in the draft… That’s a big athletic white defensive end… Oh he could be the next JJ watt! Kind of like the years of “he’s the next Wes welker” or “he’s the next rgIII or cam newton” Even though those players are not out there in bunches! I cheer for this guy when he’s not playing my lions! He has a chance to set some records if teams don’t find an anecdote to his game!

  5. He could be if he played for the Colts, instead he will have to settle for being the best player on a terrible team.

  6. OK, I think we need an asterisk here :
    *best no-steroid player ever.

    So far as we know at this point…

  7. J.J. Watt is truly in rarified company — Rev. White and Brian Urlacher territory.

    Those are big shoes to fill.

  8. Great Player so far but lets put the annoiting oil away and stop the Hall of Fame Bust from being made already.

  9. There’s no reason to think he couldn’t be the best ever. No defensive player has had that dominant of a performance any season ever.

  10. J.J. (S)watt is a beast. A man among boys. That said, let’s see him do it again before we anoint him anything but a flash in the pan. I will say though, if he does it again this year, he deserves an MVP.

  11. jimmysee says:
    Jul 2, 2013 7:43 AM
    J.J. Watt is truly in rarified company — Rev. White and Brian Urlacher territory.

    Those are big shoes to fill
    Really like Urlacher, but did you seriously just put him in the same sentence with Reggie White?

  12. The greatest ever? When people say JJ and everyone knows who they’re talking about… fine. Until then, LT is/was/will be considered the greatest ever (and i am not an NYG fan).

    done — move along, nothing to see here.

  13. It’s a shame that Joe Klecko’s name isn’t mentioned among the greatest DL of all time. Dude could flat out play. He had 20.5 sacks one season playing nose guard (but before sacks were an official NFL stat). He was the dominant defensive lineman of his time and he changed the way interior lineman played (he was the original Warren Sapp in terms of how he played the nose). Dude should be in the HOF, hope he gets recognized one day.

  14. “It’s silly, in a sense, to talk in “best ever” terms about a guy who’s only played two seasons”.

    No it’s not, RGlll has only played part of one season before his knee exploded, and he’s not only the best NFL player ever, he’s the most Super-Duper player in the universe! Signed, logicalvoicesays

  15. even at the combine you could tell this man was different.

    How he dropped to #10 is beyond me.
    Same with Patrick Willis @ #8..

    teams just ignore game tape and look for intangibles.

  16. Watt has been nothing short of fantastic his TWO YEARS in the league but to say he’s a the best ever is nuts.

  17. LT, reggie white and bruce smith probably were better. It’s easier to do it over 1 season that consistently over 10 years or so. And he doesn’t have a ring yet. White and LT seemed like they won superbowls by themselves.

  18. look at that size difference in the photo.

    cushings isn’t a small man at all ,, Watt makes him look like a little boy.

  19. Between Watt, Von Miller, Aldon Smith, etc. We really have some incredible freaks playing defense in this era. Not really in to comparing, I say let’s just enjoy watching these dudes play

  20. Cheese bay trolls would HAVE to disagree. Anything being associated as “the best” has to coincide with the word “Superbowl.”
    And I would be willing to bet All Day would truck over Watt, pittsburgh style.

  21. Ok people, calm down with this best player ever talk. One name for you, VON MILLER! Lets not forget about what he’s accomplished his 2 years in the league also. Sorry but I’m not claiming any 2 season guy to be the best ever, come back in another 10 years and we’ll see where these guys at in their career. What I will say is that miller, watt and smith have the potential to become the best if they contine to play at a high level but not crowning them just yet.

  22. Watt is a great up and coming player. But he’s not Reggie White or Bruce Smith. He’s not Jared Allen yet either. To be considered the Best Ever takes more than a couple seasons. We’ll see…

  23. Reading comprehension is in short supply on this site. No one has said that he “is” the best player ever, only that he “could be” when his career is done.

    Given his performance so far in his short career, that isn’t really a ridiculous statement.

  24. Did he make a difference in the playoffs last year? When the game is big, the best stand out.

  25. I just don’t see him getting to LT status, or even Bruce Smith/Howie Long status.

    Hell of a player though.

  26. I kept waiting for him to get a sack on Andy Dalton in the Rose Bowl against TCU – but he never got one.
    I would sign the TCU left tackle who shut him out.

  27. Great player, but PLEASE can we go one news cycle without someone being proclaimed the ‘best ever’ at something before they are 25.

    A career is more than a mere season or two.

    Kerry Wood, Darryl Strawberry, Steve Howe, Todd Marinovich, Ralph Sampson and Brian Bosworth think we should wait a few years before anointing players as GOAT.

  28. I think its WAY too early to make that kind of statement….

    That said, I think he had arguably the best season EVER for interior lineman and maybe for any defensive player.

    We’ve seen too many flashes in the pan to take one years success and label him the best ever. If he has 10 seasons like last season…. then yes.

  29. Well he’s a solid player and he is smart out on the field. He’s not a machine, and he has no magical powers. He is just showing you what is possible when you combine talent with effort and intelligence, and it’s rare to get a high dose blend of all 3 attributes.

    Most of the coaches in this league don’t do a lot to help players that have a natural deficiency in one of these elements. And the vast majority of players don’t have a high IQ or football IQ, and so it makes a tremendous difference when you stumble on a guy that gets how to play the game the right way because those are VERY few in supply. And this element is the one where most coaches aren’t even qualified to make a huge impact since these are primarily blue-collar drill instructors and not logicians or teachers or “makers of men” which is my connotation for what I see as a top flight coach that adds value.

    Anybody in the NFL can have talent or produce effort, those are the common elements, but tying all 3 together is what JJ has figured out how to do. This isn’t rocket science, it’s a simple formula to follow for success.

  30. I am surprised no one brought his name up, but IMO Mean Joe Greene was the most dominant DT I saw. Maybe I am just older than most people posting here…

  31. JJ Watt in his senior year of high school was considered too slow and too slender to play COLLEGE FOOTBALL. He was a walk on at Wisconsin and somehow went from too slow and too slender for College, to the best defensive player in the NFL?

    When he hurt his elbow, they couldn’t find an arm brace big enough, so they used a knee brace. This guy is hocked up on god knows what and is the perfect example of a guy who just hasn’t been caught yet.

  32. JJ WAtt and Cushing…..Cushing is s tupid druggie perfect for the Texans…Owner McNair supported his assertion that he was pregnant not a drug user….an Watt has had one really great year………odds are he won’t have another…when he has 5 in a row come talk to me

  33. He’s an excellent player but he mostly disappeared against the Pats in the playoffs.

    Lets wait till he performs well in the playoffs and/or Super Bowl before we crown him best ever.

  34. He is damn good, but he has a long way to go before you start comparing him to the best at his position of all time much less best defensive player of all time. He hasn’t yet reached the DT pinnacle of these guys yet:

    Alan Page
    Bob Lilly
    Joe Greene
    Merlin Olsen
    John Randle

    To name a few.

  35. He could very well be the best. He isnt yet but he could be. Just because someone has been considered the best doesnt mean he will always be the best. Things change. JJ could have had a once in a lifetime season and could possibly never do what he did last season, or he could go on to be the best ever. We dont know. But to say that its obe way or another right now when we are coming up on his third year is just plain absurd.

  36. I kept waiting for him to get a sack on Andy Dalton in the Rose Bowl against TCU – but he never got one.
    I would sign the TCU left tackle who shut him out.


    Marcus Cannon

  37. milkcan44 says:
    Jul 2, 2013 11:12 AM
    I kept waiting for him to get a sack on Andy Dalton in the Rose Bowl against TCU – but he never got one.
    I would sign the TCU left tackle who shut him out.


    I think Dalton’s seen more than enough of JJ in the play-offs since the Rose Bowl. Sacks, an interception and a touchdown.

    Keep in mind also, Watt also played last season with torn ligaments in his elbow. Far from being in the conversation of one of the greatest, but certainly a great start to a career.

  38. Jeez do you guys realize how silly it is to compare an edge rusher (LT, Von, Aldon) to a 3-4 DE lining up in 3 & 5 techniques, just because they have similar sacks in a season? Nobody is saying his 2 years is better than Reggie Whites career but his single season is better than any defensive lineman, ever. He was chasing RBs down for TFLs running away from his side. We all know about the sacks & batted balls but PFF rated him as the top run defender inside as well

  39. If he continues this trend he should be in the conversation. Guys like White and Bruce Smith are legends because they maintained their play over a long period, and even had their best years well into their 30’s. I’m not a Texans fan but he is fun to watch.

  40. jdmonte11 says: Jul 2, 2013 2:29 PM

    but PFF rated him as the top run defender inside as well


    PFF gave Watt the highest rating they’ve ever given, at any position.

    Now PFF didn’t exist when LT or Reggie White or Bruce Smith were playing but I agree with so much of jdmonte11’s post.

  41. taosravenfan says: Jul 2, 2013 1:58 PM

    He has a long way to go to pass ray Lewis

    As great as Ray Lewis was….. he still was involved in killing two people, and probably killed one of them himself….

  42. There’s a reason why all the other teams in the AFC South drafted or signed offensive linemen this offseason.

  43. “And I would be willing to bet All Day would truck over Watt, pittsburgh style.”

    You mean kinda like when J.J. tackled AD twice for a TFL when they played last year? I’ll take that bet All Day!

  44. Also, before you go dogging Cushing, you need to see the ENTIRE quote:
    “The things that he’s going to be able to accomplish are unbelievable. When you talk about the potential that he has of really being the greatest defensive player ever, he could be. I know that’s very premature, but he’s that kind of player.”

  45. Can you people read? It says he COULD BE the greatest player, not that he already is.

    I agree that we need to see a bigger body of work before we make that judgement, but if he can continue to do what he did last season he’s definitely in the conversation.

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