Define the Houston Texans. There's literally no way you can leave out the greatest player in their franchise history and probably one of the greatest defenders in this era. That is, of course, J.J Watt. With Jadaveon Clowney out, and with respect to guys like Whitney Mercilus, Brian Cushing, D.J. Swearinger, or Johnathan Joseph, nobody else on the Texans defense comes close to the impact that Watt will make on Sunday.
So how do you stop him? The simple answer really is, well, you don't. Watt will mostly line up as a left defensive end, meaning that the unlucky player on the Giants offensive line tasked to handle him will be Justin Pugh. However, Watt moves around everywhere There hasn't been a left guard that's been able to match up with Watt yet, so Weston Richburg will have himself a battle. What makes Watt so great? Let's go to the tape:
Watt misses the tackle here but that's not what I want to focus on. Look at how fast Watt is off the snap. He is probably the second-heaviest guy on that line and he's the first one to get out of his stance and past the offensive line. You can see him pull off his swim move from a mile away and he isn't even touched. The run is away from Watt's side so it's no surprise he got there, but just the fact that he got there is a showcase of his freakish ability.
In this image, we see Watt initially double teamed before the second blocker peels off to help someone else. Mistake. When Watt gets his head down and leans into you, it's over. His leg drive is like a machine piston and he is able to drive his blocker backwards. It's a play that doesn't really show up on the stat sheet, but it's a pressure. The greatest thing is that he does this consistently. He's capable of completely taking over a game. Against Washington this year, he had 10 pressures. That's absurd.
In this image, we see the versatility of Watt. He lines up over the left guard (get ready, Weston) and does the same thing. He uses his leg drive and gets horizontal to get leverage on the lineman and drive him backwards. Again, something that won't show up on the stat sheet but impacts the play as Derek Carr is forced to get rid of it too early and results in a pass break up.
This is one of the few successful plays the Oakland Raiders had against Watt last week. Watt shows his explosive get off but the left tackle is quick enough to "help him along" and they ran at the vacated gap. A rare mistake by him, but the Raiders did a good job concealing the run.
What Does This Tell Us?
That Watt is a great player. You knew that already though. How do you stop him? Scheme. You have to scheme around him. The Raiders did just that by double and sometimes triple-teaming him all game. They concealed their plays well and Watt made a mistake or two reading the play.
If there's anybody that can possibly take on Watt, it's someone like Pugh. Pugh has a low center of gravity and has tremendous foot speed. Watt is used to taking on slow maulers on the right side, but he won't find that with the Giants' right tackle. That doesn't mean that Pugh will win, that isn't what I'm saying at all. What I am saying is that with help, the Giants could potentially stop Watt.
The issue then, is contending with the rest of the defense. That's how the Texans win on defense. They've got good players to go along with a great one. Get the ball out quick, get the ball out fast. Eli needs to use his hard count to force the defense from pulling their ears back and full out attacking. This defense is a very good one, but it's not unbeatable. The Giants' offense just needs to be smart.