J.J. Watt posts his lowest grade since his rookie season

The combination of a broken hand and the quick release of Tom Brady helped neutralize the Texans star.

| 12 months ago
(AP Photo/Patric Schneider)

(AP Photo/Patric Schneider)

J.J. Watt posts his lowest grade since his rookie season


At last, we have found the answer on how to slow down J.J. Watt.

Break his hand.

It seems obvious, really, but there was a pretty big part of me that still expected Watt to go out and have a solid game with effectively one hand, but that wasn’t the case Sunday night against the Patriots.

Watt’s -1.3 grade is tied for the worst single-game grade he’s has recorded since Week 4 of his rookie season. The 26-year-old was very nearly blanked from the score-sheet when it came to pass-rushing with just a single hit and no other pressure on 36 pass rushes.

Watt was clearly hampered by his hand, which had a large cast wrapped around it, rendering it virtually useless all game. But in truth, the Patriots quick-fire offense was always one with the ability to neutralize Watt’s threat like no other and the potential for this to be a quiet game from him was always there.

New England gets the ball out faster than almost anybody this season. Despite the past few weeks with makeshift, replacement targets hurting the number, Brady has had the ball in his hands an average of just 2.36 seconds this season, the second-fastest in the NFL. An implausible 69.9 percent of his pass attempts have come out in under 2.5 seconds, making it tough for even elite pass-rushers to muster consistent pressure.

Against the Texans, the rapid numbers were even more extreme. Brady averaged just 2.9 seconds with the ball in his hands. He averaged just 2.17 per pass attempt (the first number including sacks, scrambles etc.) and 73.5 percent of his attempts were out in 2.5 seconds or less. Even a completely healthy Watt would have had very limited opportunities to apply pressure during this game, which is why Brady has been able to have such success this season, even with a revolving door of offensive line groupings protecting him.

The good news from a Houston standpoint is that while Watt was clearly hampered by his hand, he was at least still able to open things up for others. Whitney Mercilus continued his fine season with a sack and three hurries as Houston’s best source of pass-rush in the game, and Jadeveon Clowney had a pair of sacks, one of which was opened up by a nicely executed stunt from Watt.

Houston’s next game is against Indianapolis, and while Matt Hasselbeck is still among the quicker quarterbacks in the league in average time with the ball in hand (11th in NFL), he does at least average the kind of time that gives a pass-rusher some real chances to disrupt the game.

It turns out that J.J. Watt is mortal after all, but you do need to have him play with one hand to be anything below average, and even then, he can still hurt you.

| Senior Analyst

Sam is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus, as well as a contributor to ESPN.

  • crosseyedlemon

    A defensive player with a cast should be allowed to bludgeon opponents the way Deacon Jones did back in the day. The league has gone soft.

    • NickGoPats

      You realize that would be incredibly painful right? He just broke his hand.

  • JudoPrince

    I’ve seen players wearing casts still find a way to dominate. The biggest game of the year against the toughest opponent and Watt had no impact. You can’t just give this guy defensive player of the year because he has huge games against the Titans, Jags and Colts. Watt needs to be great against the really good teams in crucial games to win the award.

    • geo2209

      Um, did you read the article? How is Watt supposed to disrupt a play when it’s over before he can get through the double team? Stupid logic is still stupid.