Through five games of the 2012 NFL season, Houston Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt is the clear favorite to win the Defensive Player of the Year Award.
On the young season, Watt has 26 tackles and an NFL leading 8.5 sacks, with two fumble recoveries (tied for second in the NFL). However, the most impressive stat is the one that has earned him the nickname J.J. “Swatt”, he is tied for third in the NFL with a shocking eight passes defended. The two players ahead of Watt in the passes defended category are Tim Jennings of the Bears (10) and Patrick Robinson of the Saints (9), both cornerbacks. The next 33 players in the category are defensive backs until we reach Navarro Bowman, a linebacker with the 49ers, who has five passes defended. The next defensive lineman on the list is Seahawks defensive end Chris Clemons, who has four passes defended, half of J.J. Watt’s total. Three of the passes that Watt have tipped have ended up in a defensive teammate’s hands for interceptions.
Defending a pass for a defensive lineman takes incredible awareness, focus and timing, and Watt seems to possess these skills more than any defensive lineman in recent memory. He reads the quarterback’s eyes mid-pass rush, then uses all of his 6’5 295lbs frame to leap into the air, and volleyball set the football to the point where his teammates can make a play. Keep in mind, Watt only uses this skill when he does not get to the quarterback first (usually due to a double-team), he leads the NFL in sacks as on top of this skill.
J.J. Watt is a big reason why the Houston Texans have become one of the most feared defenses in the NFL, he not only rushes the passer with ferocity (he’s probably the best interior pass rusher in the NFL), but when he is not getting to the quarterback he uses his awareness and athleticism to impact the game in other ways.
As the heart and soul of a stingy Houston Texans defense, there is little doubt that through five games of the 2012 NFL season, J.J. Watt is the unquestioned leader for the Defensive Player of the Year award.