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Texans 'J.J. Swat' Waiting For Ravens

Posted Sep 19, 2013

The reigning Defensive Player of the Year batted down two Joe Flacco passes last year, one returned for a TD.

Titans rookie guard Chance Warmack called Houston defensive end J.J. Watt “just another guy” after their meeting last Sunday.

The Ravens know better after getting routed by 30 points in Houston last year, in which Watt was a one-man wrecking crew on the Ravens offense.

The reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year nicknamed “J.J. Swat” got his hands on two Joe Flacco passes, including one that caused a 52-yard interception return for a touchdown that started the onslaught.

“They got a couple turnovers in their way and were able to get after me a little bit. We just didn’t have a good day,” Flacco recalled Wednesday.

Watt has a knack for getting his hands in passing lanes.

He compiled 16 pass defenses last season, which would be a strong number for a defensive back, but is eye-popping for a defensive end. He had the ninth-most passes defensed in the league last year, one more than former Ravens safety turned teammate, Ed Reed.

Watt’s off to another strong start this season. He had three tackles and one pass deflection against San Diego in Week 1. Once Antonio Smith joined the Texans’ defensive line in Week 2, Watt registered five tackles, two sacks and another deflection.

Ravens Pro Bowl offensive guard Marshal Yanda said the Ravens need to know where Watt is on the field at all times. Flacco elaborated on what he’d like to see Baltimore’s offensive line do to neutralize the Texans rusher.

“The bottom line is you’ve got to be physical with him,” Flacco said. “If you’re not physical with him and you basically don’t play football, then obviously he’s going to have his day and have his way.”

One way to get opposing players’ hands down and out of passing lanes is to clobber them in the chest when they put their hands up. So look for Baltimore to engage the Texans defenders quickly and stay on them.

Still, it’s difficult to keep tabs on Watt because he’s so quick in his vertical and lateral movements. He has a strong swim move to gain backfield penetration. The Ravens were at least able to keep Watt from sacking Flacco in their first meeting, but it will be a major challenge to do that again.

“He’s really hard to block,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “He is hard to block in the run game, when you run at him, when you run away from him. He’s hard to block when you try to pass block him. He bats balls, he gets sacks. He’s just a very dominant-type defensive player.”

The primary job of blocking Watt will go to right tackle Michael Oher, Yanda and a tight end. Baltimore could also use a running back to help. If he doesn’t have success there, Watt could move around the defensive line to get a better matchup.

Texans Head Coach Gary Kubiak said Watt is studying his opponents now more than he did as a younger player, but last year Watt went against Ravens left guard Kelechi Osemele, who was then at right tackle.

“J.J. is very smart. He understands [Defensive Coordinator] Wade’s [Phillips] scheme, where he can move him around and try to give him the best chances to be successful,” Kubiak said. “But with him, it always comes down to effort. He’s a guy that plays hard and loves to play.”

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