Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt may be off to the best start of any player in the NFL.
The second-year defender has tormented opposing offenses and leads the NFL with 9.5 sacks. Now it's the Ravens' turn to try to find a way to stop him, which no team has figured out how to do this year.
"He's just a relentless player," Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron said. "He's one of those guys that you're trying to get him blocked, but he doesn't stay blocked."
Watt is the early favorite in the Defensive Player of the Year race. He's on pace to get 29 sacks and bat down 21 passes. For comparison, Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs won the Defensive MVP award last year with 14 sacks and six passes defensed.
The Ravens will likely mix up their blocking strategies to slow him down, and much of the responsibility will fall on Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda and rookie right tackle Kelechi Osemele.
"This is another good test," Osemele said. "Every week is a challenge and everybody has their own strengths."
One area where Watt has excelled is in his ability to bat down passes at the line of scrimmage. At 6-foot-5, with a 37-inch vertical leap, Watt has the size and athleticism to close throwing windows for quarterbacks. This viral video from last year highlights Watt's leaping ability, showing that he can complete a 55-inch standing box jump.
But Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco stands tall in the pocket, and at 6-foot-6 he doesn't plan to change his throwing motion to counter Watt.
"I'm just going to go out there and throw the ball like I always do and try to look for lanes and get it over the top of guys, and if he happens to make a play, he makes a play," Flacco said.
Watt made plenty of plays the last time the Ravens and Texans saw each other in the divisional round of the 2011 playoffs. He notched 2.5 sacks and 12 total tackles.
The Ravens have a much different line from that game, as Michael Oher has taken over at left tackle, Osemele is at right tackle and veteran Bobbie Williams will likely start again at left guard. The line seems to be gelling, and is coming off a performance where they gave up just one sack to the Dallas Cowboys, which features one of the NFL's elite pass rushers in DeMarcus Ware.
The group will get tested again this week, and finding a way to limit Watt will likely be key in determining the amount of success the Ravens are able to have as an offense.
"He's playing great," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "He's a factor."