J. J. Watt

AFC South Notes: Texans, Watt, Colts

J.J. Watt continues to insist he will be on the field with his Texans teammates when they open the regular season, but the severe injury he sustained last season — a tibeal plateau fracture — did not have doctors 100 percent certain the three-time defensive player of the year would play again.

They weren’t even sure if the surgery would work and if he would be able to run anymore. That’s what was so scary for us,” said Watt’s girlfriend, pro soccer player Kealia Ohai, via Jenny Vrentas of SI.com. “An ACL is difficult, but it’s pretty straightforward. With J.J.’s, because of the type of injury, I remember the doctors were not exactly sure how his leg and his knee would react to [the surgery]. From the beginning, he wanted to work hard and come back. But for a while, [the question] was, would he be able to come back and play at the same level, and support that much weight? Will his leg ever be the same again?

Watt’s returned to Texans practice, taking part in team drills, but he’s now missed 24 games over the past two seasons. It’s uncertain how the 29-year-old defensive end will look after this extensive rehab process.

Here’s the latest from the South divisions:

  • D’Onta Foreman likely will not be joining Watt and other healthy Texans in Week 1. The second-year running back is likely to land on the Reserve/PUP list to start the season, John McClain of the Houston Chronicle notes. Foreman currently resides on the Active/PUP list, but if Houston places him on the regular-season version of the PUP, he must sit at least six weeks. Alfred Blue will take Foreman’s place as Lamar Miller‘s primary backup. Foreman tore an Achilles’ tendon in November.
  • The Colts‘ backfield might not have its projected leader back by the season’s first Sunday. Marlon Mack‘s nursing a hamstring injury, and it’s “no slam dunk” he’ll be available for the opener, Frank Reich said (via Zak Keefer of the Indianapolis Star, on Twitter). While the Colts are hopeful the second-year back can return by then and take his place with the starting offense, they may have to wait a bit for that to occur. The Colts will also be without Robert Turbin for the first four games of the season due to a suspension; they have rookies Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines, along with the well-traveled Christine Michael, in their backfield behind Mack.
  • The Jets contacted the Jaguars this week regarding the trade availability of Dante Fowler.
  • Derrick Morgan appears likely to miss the start of the Titans’ season due to meniscus surgery.

Extra Points: Salary Cap, Kaepernick, Texans, Watt, Eagles

The NFL salary cap is an extremely complex system to navigate. It’s unlike anything else in professional sports and it can cripple a franchise for years if it isn’t wise with its spending. Front offices have whole teams of executives who work to maneuver through cap issues.

It’s notoriously hard to construct a balanced roster while staying under the cap, so Bill Barnwell of ESPN took a stab at creating the perfect NFL roster while staying under the $177MM cap. He wisely went with quarterbacks still on their rookie deals, Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott, and had some other relative steals like David Johnson and Alvin Kamara. Overall, it’s a pretty fun read with an interesting set of rules, and definitely worth checking out.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • The decision of whether or not to dismiss Colin Kaepernick‘s collusion claim against the NFL is currently being mulled over by an arbitrator, per ProFootballTalk.com. The NFL is hoping to avoid the case going to trial.
  • Texans defensive end J.J. Watt says there is “no doubt” he’ll be ready for Week 1, according to Herbie Teope of NFL.com. His return will be a huge boost to the Texans’ injury plagued defense. Over the last two seasons, Watt has appeared in just eight games.
  • Here’s a recent projection of the Eagles’ 53-man roster including a full breakdown of long-shots, bubble players, and potential trade candidates courtesy of Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com.

Extra Points: Browns, Johnson, Watson, Watt

Duke Johnson Jr. is staying in Cleveland for the foreseeable future. The running back signed a three-year extension with the organization today that will tack an additional $15.6MM ($7.7MM guaranteed) to his contract. While the 24-year-old is set to be with the organization until at least 2021, Johnson was more focused on his team’s potential in 2018.

“I’m excited,” Johnson told ClevelandBrowns.com. “It’s fun to see how this team is shaping out and I want to be a part of it. You can see it with the guys they brought in on offense like Tyrod (Taylor) and (Jarvis) Landry plus the guys we already had. I think bringing in coach (Todd) Haley adds another dimension to our offense and it gives coach (Hue) Jackson the chance to be the head coach. John Dorsey has been bringing in guys that can play, that can ball, and that gives us a chance. Now it’s about going out and doing it now.”

General manager John Dorsey also discussed the running back’s new deal.

“Duke Johnson is a good football player,” Dorsey said. “His hard work and commitment to the Browns organization is appreciated and we are excited to extend his contract and keep him in a Browns uniform for years to come. Duke is an excellent representative our organization. He leads by example and we look forward to him playing an important role with the Cleveland Browns moving forward.”

Let’s take a look at some other notes from around the NFL…

  • The Texans are looking like they’re going to head into the 2018 campaign healthy. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport tweets that quarterback Deshaun Watson (ACL) and defensive end J.J. Watt (tibial plateau fracture) aren’t expected to start training camp on the physically unable to perform list. The duo combined for only 12 games last season.
  • NFL executive vice president of business operations Eric Grubman will be stepping down from his role (via Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com). The executive, who has been with the NFL for 14 years, played a major part in the Rams’ move to Los Angeles.“He has handled some of the most challenging and important issues to the NFL,” said Roger Goodell. While the commissioner tried to convince Grubman to stick around, the executive will join former COO Tod Leiwicke and former executive vice president of communications Joe Lockhart among those who have left high-ranking roles.
  • We learned earlier today that Broncos edge rusher Shane Ray is set to undergo wrist surgery, which will keep him out of action for three months.

AFC Notes: Watt, Browns, Ravens, Moncrief

J.J. Watt looks to have a more optimistic attitude about surmounting his latest severe injury than he did when he was battling through back problems a year ago. Despite this being the Texans defensive end’s second severe injury in the past two seasons, the three-time defensive player of the year did not seriously consider retirement like he did when he was going through back rehab. Watt made it back and was playing at an elite level prior to his leg injury — officially a tibial plateau fracture — but he’s confident he’ll be ready to go once the 2018 season begins.

Not yet; I know I’m not there yet,” Watt said on The Dan Patrick Show (via the Houston Chronicle) when asked if he was considering retirement. “… With my back, I was. But this time I wasn’t. This time I actually was never close. From day one I was always super-excited about this recovery. I was super-optimistic; I have a great attitude; I have a great attitude about it because the broken leg to me — the back was a little bit of an unknown — a broken leg I can understand. I feel great and I’m excited about the future.”

Now 28, Watt has four years remaining on the six-year, $100MM deal he signed in 2014.

Here’s the latest from the AFC on Super Bowl eve.

  • Donte Moncrief‘s inconsistency last season frustrated members of the Colts organization, Mike Wells of ESPN.com notes. Moncrief is now an unrestricted free agent and joins several other receivers whose career profiles aren’t beacons of stability — like Sammy Watkins, Allen Robinson, John Brown and Jordan Matthews. This uncertain market could prompt the Colts, who as of now have Andrew Luck on the right track to return next season, to offer Moncrief a short-team deal to determine his legitimacy. Moncrief has shown a rapport with Luck, catching 14 of his 18 career TDs from the cornerstone Colt, but last season was playing behind Kamar Aiken in Indianapolis’ rotation.
  • While the Browns will explore a Kirk Cousins contract, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com’s consensus after this whirlwind week is the team will eventually shift its focus to a bridge quarterback to pair with the signal-caller chosen at No. 1 overall. Given the near-$30MM-per-year requirement Cousins could come with, given a team like the Browns being likely forced to overpay in this scenario, she concludes the likely outcome will be the Browns pivoting to the likes of A.J. McCarron and whomever the Vikings don’t prioritize.
  • The Ravens will hire more senior scouts to work with the personnel department in the near future, owner Steve Bisciotti said (via Mike Preston of the Baltimore Sun). The team recently lost four scouts to the Eagles in Joe Douglas, Andy Weidl, Ian Cunningham and T.J. McCreight, with Preston writing they had a combined 55 years’ experience with Baltimore. Bisciotti made it clear the Ravens will be targeting experience when searching for scouting assistance. “I think that in retrospect, you can say you can’t lose those three scouts with 30 years of experience between the three of them and then hire 25-year-olds that are ready to give it the old try,” Bisciotti said, referencing some of the Ravens’ recent high draft picks that haven’t panned out. “I think that it shows that we have not done a very good job of filling in for senior people with senior people. So that’s something we’re going to address starting right now.”

AFC South Notes: Colts, Luck, Texans, Watt

Colts quarterback Andrew Luck has been ruled out for next Monday night’s game against Tennessee, coach Chuck Pagano tells reporters. The Colts are still waiting for Luck to make his 2017 debut but publicly they have been insistent that he will play at some point. Over the weekend we learned that Luck is at least a month away from playing.

Here’s more from the AFC South:

  • Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt is facing a lengthy recovery for his tibial plateau fracture, but the good news is that he did not suffer ligament damage, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com hears (on Twitter). The Houston star will miss the remainder of the 2017 season, meaning that he will have missed 24 games over the past two regular seasons. Before that, Watt earned Pro Bowl trips and first-team All-Pro honors in every campaign from 2012-2015.
  • Colts wide receiver Krishawn Hogan confirmed that an ACL tear is the reason behind his being placed on IR (Twitter link via Mike Chappell of CBS4). “‘I kind of knew it when it happened,” Hogan said of the injury. The UDFA out of Marian University was elevated from the Colts’ practice squad in late September and appeared in two games. He had practice buzz, so the Colts can be expected to circle back to him in the offseason.
  • Colin Kaepernick‘s representatives reached out to the Titans after Marcus Mariota went down with a hamstring issue.

J.J. Watt Suffers Tibial Plateau Fracture, Out For Season

The Texans announced J.J. Watt suffered a tibial plateau fracture, which the San Diego Union-Tribune’s David Chao noted would cause the defensive end to either undergo surgery or be shelved for a lengthy period of time. It looks like both are set to occur.

That absence looks like it will include the rest of the 2017 season. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets Watt will indeed be out for the remainder of this season. This will require surgery, Mark Berman of Fox 26 tweets, confirming Rapoport’s report about this being a season-ending setback.

While additional tests are coming for Watt, the severity of this injury to the 28-year-old defender’s left shin bone looks to provide yet another substantial hurdle to surmount. This injury also affects the knee joint, with John McClain of the Houston Chronicle noting (on Twitter) it’s a range-of-motion issue. This will be a recovery process spanning several months, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle adds (via Twitter).

The Texans placing Watt on IR would sideline him for eight weeks, but the Texans announcing this precise injury looks to be a fairly indicative sign they don’t believe Watt will be able to return this season.

Watt suffered the malady during the first quarter of Sunday night’s game against the Chiefs. The three-time defensive player of the year missed 13 games last season with a back injury and underwent three surgeries in 2016, sidetracking what had begun as a stratospheric career.

The four-time first-team All-Pro missing the rest of this season would end up shelving him for 24 games over the past two regular seasons. Previously, Houston’s 2011 first-round pick and franchise cornerstone had gone through five seasons without missing a game. Watt entered Sunday night’s game appearing to have bounced back fully from the back injury that ended his 2016 slate, ranking as Pro Football Focus’ No. 6 interior defender.

Houston managed to finish as the 2016 No. 1 defense without Watt’s services beyond September, and this continues a pattern of injuries preventing the franchise’s top defenders from playing together. Jadeveon Clowney struggled mightily with maladies during Watt’s apex in 2014-15, but the former No. 1 overall pick emerged as a top-notch defender last season and was playing alongside Watt to start this one. Clowney will have to anchor the Houston front seven again.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: 2018 QBs, Watt, Gronk, Garrett

With the 2017 class of rookie quarterbacks carrying potentially significant risk, a strategy to eye the 2018 class may enter the mind of some decision-makers as the draft nears. But a college scouting director told TheMMQB.com’s Albert Breer the ’18 crop won’t be without risk, either, so hoping an Andrew Luck-type player emerges will be a gamble.

I’d say no on [UCLA’s Josh] Rosen,” said a college scouting director, via Breer, regarding the class of 2018’s potential to produce a franchise quarterback, with Breer adding “off-field issues” and a nerve injury may be presently holding Rosen back. “[USC’s Sam] Darnold, I like a lot, but needs to repeat that this year. He wasn’t good enough to start the season at USC — Why? And Josh [Allen, of Wyoming] needs to make a lot of strides to be considered a top guy. He’s talented, but not accurate.”

Rosen will be draft-eligible in 2018. Darnold will be a redshirt sophomore in 2017, and Allen a junior. An AFC scouting director told Breer a strategy of waiting for this group instead of gambling on the current one would need a committed owner, but the method may fall short due to it simply being too far away to predict these younger passers’ futures.

Here’s more from around the league.

  • A trade of J.J. Watt would be one of the more earth-shattering scenarios the NFL could produce, but Joel Corry of CBSSports.com discussed this hypothetical gargantuan Texans deal with executives who didn’t think it was laughably unrealistic. Houston’s defense improved statistically without Watt, finishing first in total defense, and the team needs help offensively. One exec said it would take two first-round picks for the Texans to consider it, likening a Watt return package similar to that of a franchise quarterback. Another hypothetical deal involved the Texans including Brock Osweiler‘s contract in a trade and accepting less compensation in return. Corry adds that Jadeveon Clowney will likely receive a contract extension in 2018 for an amount eclipsing Watt’s six-year, $100MM deal. Corry projects that would induce a new Watt contract since it wouldn’t be realistic to have a three-time defensive player of the year be the second-highest-paid defender on his own team.
  • Taking said Internet-breaking premise further: Corry discussed with execs a Watt-for-Rob Gronkowski exchange, with the Patriots — in the mind of a league exec — needing to include more than just their No. 32 overall pick in addition to Gronk to make the Texans consider that deal. Another exec couldn’t picture the teams doing this trade due to Gronkowski’s extensive injury history.
  • Myles Garrett‘s lack of consistency has drawn questions from some NFL personnel, per Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com (video link). The Texas A&M edge-rushing maven piling up statistics against inferior competition — 16 of his 31 career sacks came against Texas-San Antonio, Rice, Louisiana-Monroe, Lamar and Nevada — and disappearing for times in bigger spots, makes some curious about his reliability. Cabot is not certain Garrett will be the first player taken despite the Browns’ reported “astronomical grade” on the ex-Aggie. This runs counter to Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller noting Garrett beginning to distance himself from the pack. This draft’s quarterback scrutiny could tilt the scales in Garrett’s favor.
  • Cameron Wake‘s two-year, $19MM extension will not have a factor on Lorenzo Alexander‘s potential UFA deal, Corry tweets, noting the disparity between the two aging players’ careers. Wake, 35, has four double-digit sack seasons and has been the Dolphins’ premier sack artist this decade while Alexander, 33, emerged from nowhere to lead the Bills with 12.5 last year.

AFC Notes: Siemian, Watt, Cutler, Bengals

The Broncos tabbed Trevor Siemian as their emergency quarterback after he left Sunday’s game. Denver’s first-year starter suffered what an AC joint sprain on his non-throwing shoulder, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Siemian will undergo additional tests before the team determines the course of action.

Gary Kubiak categorized Siemian as day-to-day, per Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post (via Twitter). The Broncos, who received 170 passing yards and one touchdown from Paxton Lynch in relief, host the Falcons in Week 5.

Here’s more from the AFC as its signature game of Week 4 continues its one-sided course.

  • J.J. Watt underwent surgery on the same disk he injured during the spring, Rapoport reports. The Texans defensive end herniated the disk again this season despite passing the tests needed to play. Per Rapoport, Watt felt like he’d regressed back to where he was before the first back surgery this summer. He will stay in Los Angeles to rehab and be able to resume training in two months. However, the 27-year-old perennial All-Pro will still be out for the season despite the call to resume workouts during it. Rapoport adds the Texans don’t have any long-term concerns about Watt.
  • While Ryan Tannehill hasn’t impressed in Adam Gase‘s system, the last quarterback who did is not a target for the Dolphins. Any Jay Cutler-to-Miami talk “has never come up,” with a source close familiar with the Dolphins’ thinking telling Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald that scenario is “never happening.”
  • Former Dolphins DC Kevin Coyle did not draw rave reviews from his Bengals secondary charges, according to a report earlier this week. However, the Bengals — who beat the Dolphins 22-7 on Thursday night — refute the report the new Cincinnati defensive backs coach is unpopular among his players, per Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer. The Bengals “blew off” that contention, instead pointing to the usual adjustment period associated with new coaches. The Dolphins fired Coyle midway through last season.
  • Titans nose tackle Al Woods will miss at least a month of action after pulling his calf muscle on Sunday, Mike Mularkey told media, including Terry McCormick of TitanInsider.com. Woods is in his third season with the Titans but the first of a three-year, $10.5MM deal he signed to stay in Tennessee this offseason.

J.J. Watt Officially Ruled Out For Season

It’s official – J.J. Watt has been ruled out for the rest of the 2016 season. This morning, head coach Bill O’Brien told reporters that Watt will not be able to return at any point this season after undergoing back surgery. J.J. Watt

[RELATED: Texans Take Play Calling Duties From Godsey]

Watt was placed on IR earlier this week thanks to his troublesome back and there was some hope that he could return to the team in two months thanks to the league’s new IR rules. Unsurprisingly, Watt will need much more than eight weeks to heal up.

Of course, this is devastating news for the Texans, especially as they are coming off of 27-0 drumming at the hands of the Patriots. The Texans have talent elsewhere in the front seven, but their defense simply won’t be the same without Watt there as the anchor.

Watt earned Pro Bowl trips and first-team All-Pro honors in every season from 2012-2015. The three-time Defensive Player of the Year winner also nabbed that honor in back-to-back seasons. Since going 11th overall in the 2011 draft, Watt has racked up 76 sacks, 45 passes defended, and 15 forced fumbles.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

J.J. Watt Undergoes Back Surgery

Texans defensive end J.J. Watt underwent back surgery Thursday and will likely miss the rest of the season as a result, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports (Twitter link). Watt was already expected to miss the remainder of a year on account of a back injury, but the surgery is a new development. He has now undergone two back procedures since July, when he had surgery on a herniated disc. The good news is that Watt will be fine for 2017, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link).

J.J. Watt

This season will go down as one to forget for Watt, who didn’t miss any games during his first five years in the NFL. But Watt aggravated his back in the Texans’ 27-0 loss to the Patriots in Week 3, leading Houston to place him on injured reserve Wednesday. Watt hadn’t been his usual dominant self to that point, as the 27-year-old picked up 1.5 sacks in the Texans’ first three games and ranked a pedestrian 72nd in overall performance among Pro Football Focus’ 116 qualified interior D-linemen.

Entering the season, Watt had earned Pro Bowl trips and first-team All-Pro honors in each of the previous four campaigns. The three-time Defensive Player of the Year winner also nabbed that honor in back-to-back seasons. Since going 11th overall in the 2011 draft, the ex-Wisconsin standout has amassed 76 sacks, 45 passes defended and 15 forced fumbles.

The loss of the incredibly productive Watt is clearly a devastating blow to a 2-1 Houston team with hopes of earning its second consecutive AFC South title. As Roster Resource shows, the Texans’ defensive end group outside of Watt includes Jadeveon Clowney, Joel HeathDevon StillChristian Covington, Brandon Dunn, and the recently signed Antonio Smith. Nobody would confuse any of those options with the superhuman Watt, though Clowney was the first overall pick of the 2014 draft. Based on talent, he stands the best chance of posting above-average numbers, but his track record isn’t in Watt’s stratosphere.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.