|Texans DE J.J. Watt has a lot to smile about the way he has played this season, but Packers coach Mike McCarthy will tell you opponents are not happy to go against the Wisconsin product. (US Presswire)|
They saw him terrorize quarterbacks in college, racking up seven sacks in 2010 on his way to being named a second-team All American.
Consider Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy and QB AAron Rodgers Wisconsin fans, because both heaped a bunch of praise on Watt, who has 7.5 sacks in five games, just one-half fewer than Packers OLB Clay Matthews. Watt's also knocked down eight passes and recovered two fumbles.
“J.J. Watt is having an excellent season,” McCarthy said. “He's out of the blocks. There's not a game where you don't notice him.”
McCarthy added that Watt was “very productive” batting down balls at the line of scrimmage and would be an “excellent challenge” for Green Bay on Sunday.
A challenge, indeed.
For a Packers team that's given up the second-most sacks in the NFL this season (21), blocking Watt will be a monumental task. Watt typically lines up at left DE in the Texans' 3-4 base defense, which means he'll be confronted by Packers RT Bryan Bulaga. Bulaga had been considered one of Green Bay's best lineman, but in Week 3 against Seahawks rookie first-round pick Bruce Irvin manhandled Bulaga for three sacks in what Bulaga later called his worst game.
In a conference call with Houston reporters on Wednesday, McCarthy said he'd certainly taken note of the 6-foot-5, 295-pound Watt.
“You always keep your eye on the Wisconsin kids,” McCarthy said. “You always appreciate what they do and what they've done for the University of Wisconsin, but now what he's done down there. He's making big plays from the defensive end position. Their inside pass rush from him and (Antonio) Smith is as good as we've seen.”
QB Aaron Rodgers said what stood out to him was Watt's talent for knocking passes down at the line. That isn't typically a problem for Rodgers, but he also doesn't face many players who take as much pride and perfect the maneuver as Watt does.
"He's very active for them," Rodgers said. "He does a lot of things inside that you don't see. He's quick, he's got great moves to the passer and he's smart. He knows that when he can't get there, he gets his hands up there. I think he's got 11-plus-inch hands and he's getting his hands on a lot of balls and impacting the game."