T.J. Watt has already exceeded the point at which we can talk about him in any terms that imply he’s under the radar or that he hasn’t already arrived. In plain and simple fact, he is one of the best football players on the planet, even if it is true that he still appears to be getting better, at the very least perpetually seeking improvement.
But that is one of the essential quality that makes him as great as he is, according to Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, in explaining to the Houston media what it is about the Steelers’ Watt that has vaulted him out of the shadow of his eldest brother on the Texans, who is coming to town this week.
“The things that make him the player he is are his day-to-day attention to detail and his hyper focus on the development of skills, of understanding game-planning, of getting to know the people that he has to compete against, whether it’s schematics or the personnel”, Tomlin said. “He has a hyper focus about him that allows him to maximize everything from a preparation standpoint. His talents are what they are. Together that produces the play that you see consistently”.
Watt already has two and a half sacks through two games, with three tackles for loss and six quarterback hits, not to mention two passes defensed, one of which was an interception against the New York Giants and Daniel Jones in the opener.
That interception was purely a product of his preparation, not just in general but for his opponent. He know Jones’ tendencies and he saw the way the Giants schemed to block him on that play. He read the pass, dropped into short coverage, and was there to snag the ball out of the air close to the line of scrimmage.
Although Watt is a physically talented athlete, it’s the fact that he puts so much work into his craft and into the accumulated knowledge of the game and of his teammates and scheme and his opponents that gives him the platform to dominate on a weekly basis and be a difference-maker.
One would be hard-pressed to find a more driven and determined athlete than him, and he has seen a steady rise since he was first drafted in 2017. Although he was still relatively new to the position he was playing, he earned a starting job immediately and played at a high level from his first game, and has since only continued to get better and better.
There doesn’t appear to be any break in that pattern, as Watt already appears to be even better through two games in 2020 than he was last year, which was one of the best seasons by an edge defender in franchise history. Don’t be surprised if he earns Defensive Player of the Year honors at season’s end. After all, he needs three before J.J. can see him as a peer.