Arizona Cardinals defensive lineman J.J. Watt burst onto the scene when the Houston Texans made him the 11th overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft. Watt was taken because of his relentless style of play, toughness and grit that he displayed at Wisconsin. In his rookie season the former Badgers star showed everyone what he could be with 48 tackles, 5.5 sacks, and 28 QB pressures.
Most of his work was done on the inside as a defensive tackle. In his second year Watt took home the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award, his first of three in a four-year span; he also won the award in 2014 and 2015.
Since starting every game from 2011-15, Watt has missed 42 games over the past six seasons, due to a variety of injuries: back surgery, fractured tibia, pectoral muscle and shoulder surgery. As dominant as Watt was prior to this rash of injuries, one can only think what could’ve been if not for the injuries.
— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) June 13, 2015
Watt Is A First Ballot Hall of Famer: He Was On A Best-Defensive-Player-Ever Trajectory
Watt’s play early on in his career was downright dominant. In his first five seasons he accrued 74.5 of his 104 career sacks. Under the tutelage of then defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, Watt flourished in a system that moved him around just about every play. Crennel applied the same tactic he used in New England with 2022 Hall of Fame inductee Richard Seymour. While Seymour was great at what he did, Watt’s athleticism allowed Crennel to do more with him within the scheme.
JJ Watt’s career stats…
• 10 seasons (128 games)
• 531 tackles, 172 TFL
• 282 QB hits
• 101 sacks
• 61 PD, 2 INTs
• 25 FF, 16 FR
• 6 total TDs, 1 safety
• 8x all-pro (1st: 5, 2nd: 3)
• 5x pro bowler
• 3x DPOY pic.twitter.com/x2QRA9dsd4
— NFL Stats (@NFL_Stats) February 12, 2021
With Injuries Came Lower Production
Since 2016 Watt has only 29.5 sacks, and 16 of those came in 2018, when he played every game of the season. In fact, it was the only season other than his first five where he suited up for every game.
Watt was on a trajectory that would’ve put him in rarified air and mentioned amongst the greatest defensive players ever. Even with his limited contributions, his impact was always huge, and the Hall of Fame is an ultimate destination. But had he remained healthy, who knows what kind of numbers he would have put up. How many more significant games his teams would have played in. His injury last season basically tanked the Arizona Cardinals’ season.
Watt Is Still Playing: Had A Heart Procedure Last Week
After missing the final ten regular season games of 2021 due to shoulder surgery, Watt returned for the Cardinals’ playoff loss to the Rams. Coming into 2022 Watt was expected to be at full strength and healthy after a great offseason. While he isn’t the dominant defender he once was as age and attrition have caught up to him, he’s still someone that offenses have to account for weekly.
Prior to Sunday’s road win over the Carolina Panthers, Watt revealed that he had a heart procedure during the week to put his irregular heartbeat back in rhythm. After hearing that information concerning his health had been leaked, Watt took to Twitter to say this.
JJ Watt emotional post game in Charlotte pic.twitter.com/K6GVQRsnsa
— Mark McClune (@MarkMcClune) October 2, 2022
“I was just told somebody leaked some personal information about me and it’s going to be reported on today.”
For Watt it’s another serious medical situation that unfortunately has become a part of his Hall of Fame career. If his body didn’t fail him so often, we could be talking about him being even higher on the NFL’s all-time defensive hierarchy.
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