Why JJ Watt is so hot with the swat

HOUSTON, Texas – Why is J.J. Watt so hot with the swat?

The Houston Texans defensive end is far and away the NFL leader among defensive linemen, with eight pass knockdowns. No other tackle or end has more than four.

“I think people are making a big deal out of it now, but I’ve been doing it since (the University of) Wisconsin,” the 6-foot-5 Watt told me on Friday.

“My position coach at Wisconsin (Charlie Partridge) harped on it a lot, and we practised it a lot. And now we practise it a lot here. It’s just one of those things where if you practise it a lot, you get good at it.”

OK, J.J., but what are you doing, specifically, that others maybe aren’t to get so many bat-downs?

He explained.

“When you realize you’re not going to get to the quarterback, then you start to watch his eyes, and you start to watch his arm. And as soon as he cocks it, you put your hands up and you jump. And it takes some luck. There’s definitely skill involved, but there’s also a little bit of luck.”

That is, in timing it properly. Like a shot-blocker in basketball.

“Exactly. You can get pump-faked,” Watt said. “You watch the film – I’ll look silly a few times. But you also look really, really good the times that you bat it down.”

Texans quarterback Matt Schaub practises against the scout team during the season, but in spring OTAs and summer training-camp, the first-team offence often faces the first-team defence. Watt does it to him, too.

“It’s all instinctive,” Schaub told me, in reference to Watt’s swats. “He understands that if he’s not going to get to the quarterback, to get his hands up. He anticipates when the ball is coming out, and he just tries to get his hands up. He’s a big guy with long arms, so it’s pretty advantageous for him.”

Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said the club took note of Watt’s acumen in this regard before the 2011 draft, concluding it was not a fluke. They selected him 11th overall.

“That’s one of the reasons we liked him,” Phillips told me. “He led Wisconsin in passes broken up. He had more than their secondary guys did. It’s something he naturally did well, and he’s really expanded on that here.

“You have to be able to rush and see the quarterback at the same time. Some guys can only focus on the rush, on the guy that’s blocking him. But he has great ability to do that.”

And because in Phillips’ 3-4 scheme Watt lines up inside, rather than as an edge rusher as ends do in a 4-3, he gets more opportunities.

“Well, yeah,” Phillips said, “because that’s where more throwing lanes are.”

 

 

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