Though they’re both coming off spectacular seasons, Bud Dupree and TJ Watt believe there’s still room for improvement. Watt spoke with reporters Tuesday and was asked what he and Dupree are working on heading into the season.
“We’ve been working hands, we’ve been working hands like crazy,” he told reporters via Steelers.com. “I know he sees a pass rush coach or two in the offseason. I’m not huge on seeing individual pass rush coaches so I just kind of work on my own drills and try to share as much as I can with him.”
Dupree has worked closely with Chuck Smith, one of the top pass rush coaches that players flock to. His improvement for a breakout 2019 can largely be attributed to improving his hands. Health was the driver, Dupree finally avoided a nagging or severe injury, and he became a more powerful and varied pass rusher, able to attack inside and outside. In past years, tackles sat on his speed rush and sealed him up the arc far too often.
Watt’s improved hand use became evident the back half of his sophomore season. He recorded a sack each of his final three weeks and at the time, we noted the strides he was making.
As others have noted this week, T.J. Watt's hand use has really improved over the 2nd half of the season. Rip through the tackle on his way to the QB. First Steelers LB with 12 sacks since Woodley. #Steelers pic.twitter.com/347CM8uqWE
— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) December 28, 2018
His progression hasn’t slowed down. Not only does their hand use aid them in rushing the passer, it’s made both players among the most effective run defenders at OLB. Couple that with their freaky size/athleticism combination, effort to the ball, and ability to finish and they make up one of – if not the – best EDGE duos in football.
Watt was also asked to evaluate what he’s seen from Dupree overall since camp began.
“Out of Bud, just the intensity that he’s bringing this camp. He’s made a ton of plays. He’s always been a really well rounded player in the run and in the pass. I just see him and being super eager to learn and to be able to make plays and be that, uh, that staple to the right side of that defense with him and Cam. And obviously Tuitt and I will handle the left.”
That fearsome foursome will look to record 50+ sacks for a fourth straight season. If they can achieve that mark, they’ll be the first defense to do so since the ’85-88 New York Giants. A group led by the great Lawrence Taylor and other top talent like Leonard Marshall and Carl Banks. Since sacks became official in 1982, only four other teams have recorded 50+ sacks in four consecutive years.