J.J. Watt has become accustomed to people saying nice things about him, so when Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston said it was an honor to be facing him, Watt shrugged it off by saying it was the smart thing for a rookie to say.
But it’s the attention he’s getting from opponents that has been more intense, as Watt says he’s drawing more blockers than ever before.
“I think so far this year, there’s already been more triple teams than the past,” Watt said, via Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. “But that’s to be expected. I mean, that’s what I would do, too. You have to continue to fight, continue to battle. Like I’ve always said, it makes it that much sweeter when you do get there.”
Watt has 3.0 sacks so far this season despite that attention, but that number could soar this week.
The Buccaneers have struggled up front, start two rookies, and the guy they trust the most doesn’t have a great history against Watt. Right tackle Gosder Cherilus has played against Watt five times during his stints with the Lions and Colts, and Watt has 8.0 sacks, with 4.0 of them and a fumble return for a touchdown last season alone.
“He’s in a highlight every week,” Cherilus said. “I’m just going to show up and do the best that I can. Hopefully, it’ll be okay. He’s not going to give you no day off, no play off.”
That part wasn’t questioned, as the guy has 20.5 sacks in each of the last two seasons and he was named the top player in the entire league in the last NFL Network Top 100 poll.
“You can say, ‘Hey, he is just another player, let’s do our thing, ” Bucs coach Lovie Smith said. “No. It doesn’t work like that. You have to put a lot of the focus on him, and when you’re that type of football player, you have to do what you can to limit the opportunities that he gets, and that’s tough duty. Easier said than done. I don’t think there is too much focus being placed on it.”
But on game day, there will be plenty of focus on him, from blockers and backs being asked to slow him down.