By Danny O’Neil
“Person of Interest” is a weekly feature in which we put the microscope on one player from the Seahawks’ upcoming opponent. This week, it’s Houston’s J.J. Watt.
• Position: Defensive end, de facto skyscraper, NFL’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year
• Height: 6-5
• Weight: 289
• Age: 24
• Experience: Third season
J.J. Watt, the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2012, has three sacks through three games this season. (AP)
A year ago, he was an impressive defensive lineman with an almost unbelievable story. After 20.5 sacks as an NFL sophomore, he’s now an unbelievable player with an impressive story considering he was a 220-pound high-school senior who went to Central Michigan as a tight end before leaving the program, enrolling at a junior college, and then walking on at Wisconsin to play defensive line.
He blossomed first with the Badgers, becoming the 11th player chosen in the 2011 draft, and then under Wade Phillips in the Texans’ defense.
Watt had 20.5 sacks last season, his second in the NFL. It was the second-highest single-season sack total for any NFL player in the past 10 seasons. Watt has three sacks in three games this season.
“He’s only going to get better,” said Gary Kubiak, Watt’s coach in Houston. “You never know if you’re going to have the number of sacks or those types of things, but I know he’s getting better as a player.”
Watt is a big enough challenge under any circumstance, but Seattle’s situation along the offensive line will make it even more daunting. Left tackle Russell Okung is out and will miss the next seven games, right tackle Breno Giacomini is a question mark because of a sore knee and center Max Unger – who’s in charge of calling Seattle’s protection adjustments – missed practice Wednesday with an arm injury.
That could spell trouble against a Texans team that totaled 44 sacks last season, tied for fifth-most in the league. While Houston’s defense is known for the variety of its blitzes, Watt is clearly Seattle’s top concern this week.
“He’s a star player,” said Darrell Bevell, the Seahawks’ offensive coordinator. “He really does a great job. He’s tenacious. He works hard. He’s long. He creates a lot of issues so he’s definitely someone that we have to account for and make sure that he doesn’t wreck the whole day for us.”