There is some bad news in Houston as Texans star defensive end J.J. Watt is expected to be put on injured reserve with a back injury on Wednesday according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.
Rapoport is reporting that the Texans made the decision of putting Watt on injured reserve after putting the 27-year-old through a few days of test. Watt missed Texans practice on Monday and Tuesday.
Watt, who missed the entire preseason after undergoing surgery to repair a herniated disc in July, re-injured his back during the Houston’s Week 3 (27-0) loss to the New England Patriots on Thursday night. Rapoport added that there is hope that the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year can return to the Texans in time for a playoff run, but there is a chance he done for the season. As a result of being placed on IR, the six-foot-five, 295-pounder will not be able to practice for six weeks and won’t be able to return to game action until November 27 against the San Diego Chargers.
Watt has played in Houston’s first three games though he hasn’t looked like himself in those games. Watt tallied just two tackles (both of them assists) against the Patriots. He has eight tackles on the season and 1.5 sacks, which he recorded in Week 2 against the Kansas City Chiefs. The sixth-year veteran was on pace for his worst season, statistically speaking, since his rookie campaign in 2011.
Watt has never before missed a regular season NFL game. In 83 career games, he has totaled 379 tackles (299 solos) and 76.0 sacks — which includes a string of four straight seasons of double-digit sacks.
Houston currently sits atop of the AFC with a 2-1 record, and while the loss of Watt obviously hurts tremendously, the Texans should be okay defensively.
Since coming into the NFL in 2011, Watt has been on the field for 90 percent of the Texans’ defensive snaps, according to ESPN.
Houston currently has one of the best defensive units in the NFL. the Texans have given up the seventh fewest points (17.5) through Week 3 and has surrendered the fifth least touchdowns with five. They also rank fifth in total yards permitted (277.0), third in offensive third down conversions (11-of-41), as well as third in first downs allowed (14.3). In addition, the Texans have recorded 10 sacks (tied for third most) and forced four turnovers.
Linebacker Bernardrick McKinney leads the Texans with 29 tackles, including 16 stops in the game versus the Patriots, to go with 2.0 sacks. Cornerback Kareem Jackson is second on the team with 18 tackles, and linebacker John Simon is third with 15 stops along with a team-high 2.5 sacks. Left outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus also has recorded two sacks this season.
Houston can do a number of things to try to compensate for the loss of Watt. They can move jack linebacker Jadevon Clowney up to the defensive line full-time. Clowney, who has been moved all over the front seven this season, is an excellent pass rusher. The 23-year-old has recorded nine tackles and one sack on the season.
“He’s the type of player that you can move around and ask him to do different things because he understands football,” Texans head coach Bill O’Brien said. “He really understands blocking schemes, I believe. He really likes to play all different spots. He’s into the game plan every week.”
Another option is to keep rotating Clowney along the front seven while promoting reserve Devon Still to starter. Still has appeared in two games thus far this season though he has not recorded any statistics.
One thing is known for sure, and that is the Texans will sign defensive end Antonio Smith to a one-year deal per the Houston Chronicle. Smith played for the Texans previously from 2009 to 2013.
Smith was with the Denver Broncos last season, compiling nine tackles along with 2.5 sacks in 16 contests. The 34-year-old has 311 tackles and 47.0 sacks for his career.
[Featured Image by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images]