When an NFL team that went 4-12 the year before has aspirations of winning the AFC and going to the Super Bowl, the questions most certainly abound as to how exactly they intend to get that done. The Houston Texans were a team (maybe still are) who had a ton of questions that needed to be answered heading into 2018, and perhaps the biggest mystery surrounded the health of J.J. Watt.
Two back surgeries and a traumatic broken leg within a two-year period cast serious doubt as to whether Watt would ever be the same player who won three Defensive Player of the Year awards in a four year span. Well, we are only four games into 2018, but the league has spoken, and it would appear things are trending quite positively for Watt, as he was named the AFC's Defensive Player of the Month for the month of September.
This award came four days after the Texans' first win of the season, and one day after his teammate, Jadeveon Clowney, won the AFC Defensive Player of the Week award for Week 4. Watt had looked active and, at times, dominant, through the first two games, but still hadn't broken through in the box score in a big way. That changed in Week 3, and now, four weeks in, Watt's numbers are back to vintage J.J. Watt levels.
Per the press release from Texans P.R.:
In four games in September, Watt compiled 20 total tackles (14 solo), 5.0 sacks for a loss of 33 yards, eight quarterback hits, six tackles for loss and four forced fumbles. Watt ranks tied for first in the NFL this season in forced fumbles, tied for second in sacks, tied for fifth in quarterback hits and tied for fourth in tackles for loss. In the AFC, Watt is the leader in sacks and forced fumbles while tying for third in both tackles for loss and quarterback hits.
Watt became the second-fastest NFL player to reach 80.0 career sacks, doing so in his 92nd career game in Week 4 at Indianapolis (Reggie White - 70 games). He recorded 3.0 sacks against the N.Y. Giants in Week 3 and 2.0 at Indianapolis in Week 4. Watt’s franchise-record 81.0 career sacks are the second-most through a player’s first 92 games of their NFL career, trailing only White (99.0).
Watt is one of five players to record at least six total tackles, two tackles for loss and a forced fumble in a game this season and the only player in the NFL to accomplish the feat twice in 2018 (Weeks 2-3). Watt has recorded 2.0 sacks and four tackles for loss in a game eight times in his career, which is the most by any player since tackles for loss became an official NFL statistic. Against the N.Y. Giants, Watt recorded 3.0-or-more sacks for the sixth time, which is the second-most in the NFL since 2011 (Justin Houston – seven).
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If you're looking for context and another indicator of Watt's all-time greatness, here is another great factoid:
This marks Watt’s sixth Player of the Month award in his career, which is tied for the most by any defensive player in NFL history (Bruce Smith) and tied for the fourth-most Player of the Month awards overall. Only Tom Brady (10), Peyton Manning (eight) and Aaron Rodgers (eight) have won more.
Watt's honor is the sixteenth time in franchise history that a Texan has won Player fo the Month honors, and th first since Deshaun Watson won AFC Offensive Player of the Month honors last October. The Texans begin the month of October this Sunday night against the Dallas Cowboys at NRG Stadium.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.