Can former Texans DE J.J. Watt still produce as an edge rusher?

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Mark Lane
·2 min read
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The Houston Texans and defensive end J.J. Watt announced Friday that the face of the franchise will be released, a request that the former 2011 first-round pick made of the McNair family.

In general, teams don’t just release players unless there are issues with their playing ability. Furthermore, Watt was entering the final year of his contract and would cost the team $17.5 million of non-guaranteed money on the salary cap.

Can Watt still rush the passer at a high level?

According to Doug Farrar of the Touchdown Wire, the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year can still be a quality player on the outside.

Teams vetting Watt at this point will be just as interested in his snap counts as what he’s doing with those snaps, especially with his injury history. In 2020, Watt played 1,016 total snaps, his highest total since 2016, when he amassed 1,026 snaps. So, no problem there.

Watt was the premier multi-gap defensive lineman of his era at his peak, and one of the best in NFL history. Over time, his role with the Texans reduced to the edge for the most part. In 2020, per Pro Football Focus, Watt played 702 snaps at LEO, 134 snaps at REO, 90 snaps at left end, and 32 snaps at right end. He played just 10 snaps at defensive left tackle, eight at right defensive tackle, 10 at any kind of nose tackle, and a handful of snaps as an off-ball linebacker.

Does he still have what it takes as a potentially dominant edge guy for the next few seasons? Per the tape, the answer is: Absolutely, unequivocally, yes. Add in the multi-gap potential, and we’ve got liftoff.

If Watt lands in a situation where he is just one of the guys getting after the quarterback, and not the sole playmaker on the defense, he could rebound with a Pro Bowl season with his new team.

List

7 NFL teams that make sense for former Texans DE J.J. Watt

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7-nfl-teams-must-sign-former-texans-j-j-watt