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Three-time defensive player of the year J.J. Watt is getting ready for his first year with a team other than the Texans. He plans to be the guy he was during his best years in Houston.
Lisa Salters of ESPN interviewed Watt during Friday night’s game between the Chiefs and Cardinals, and she asked him if he plans not only to help lead his new team in Arizona but also to dominate with his play.
“Yeah,” he said, “and I can’t wait to do it. I love it. I’m here to lead. I’m here to lead with my words, I’m here to lead with my actions. But most importantly, I’m here to lead on the field. I’m here to go out there and dominate on the football field, and try and elevate this team to new levels.”
He also wants to get his game back to past levels. After the sideline interview, Steve Levy said this about their pregame meeting with Watt: “He told us that 2015 was the last time he put on his tape and was OK with the effort he saw. He’s been so unhappy with his own production since then.”
Part of the problem is that injuries have limited Watt to only two 16-game seasons since 2015. His performance in 2018 was good enough to make him a first-team All-Pro, for the fifth time in his career.
Watt continues to be motivated by the fact that, for all his accomplishments, he hasn’t achieved the ultimate team success.
“I love the game, and there’s one thing that I don’t have,” Watt said. “And I want to get that thing.”
He wouldn’t have had a chance to get that thing with the Texans, and when he was asked about leaving the team that drafted him in 2011, Watt conspicuously did not mention the Texans organization.
“The people of Houston, the city, the fans, my teammates, I understand and I’m very thankful for how rare that bond is,” Watt said. “There’s not many bonds like that and I’m extremely thankful, so that made it very, very difficult to leave.”
It will be very difficult to get to the top of the NFL mountain in Arizona, given that the Cardinals belong to one of the most difficult divisions in football. With an improved roster in 2021 and one of the best young quarterbacks in the league, it’s not unreasonable to expect the Cardinals to get back to the playoffs.