This might not shock you, so I suppose it doesn’t particularly matter whether or not you’re sitting down for this, but I’m here to tell you that T.J. Watt is really good. And in his fourth season, he is merely showing signs of being even better. Not only is he actually successfully generating a high rate of pressure, he is doing so simply because he has been so successful winning off the line of scrimmage.
According to Pro Football Focus, for example, he has the highest win rate as a pass rusher in the NFL through the first two weeks of the season, and it’s actually not that close. He is beating the offensive lineman across from him cleanly nearly a third of the time, 32 percent, which is truly exceptional. Joey Bosa and Myles Garrett are tied at 26 percent as the next-most-successful rate in the league.
Leaders in PFF pass-rush win rate through Week 2
1. T.J. Watt (32%)
T-2. Joey Bosa (26%)
T-2. Myles Garrett (26%)
T-4. Khalil Mack (24%)
T-4. Jerry Hughes (24%) pic.twitter.com/G1A6DJMxaf
— PFF (@PFF) September 22, 2020
Every single year, Watt has stepped up significantly in his ability to win consistently at the line of scrimmage. He was only something close to average in this department as a rookie, but was able to turn a high percentage of his wins into pressures, and pressures into sacks. It was by the middle of his second season that even by his own admission he really started to put his pass-rush plan together.
Then we saw it really blossom last year, producing 14.5 sacks with eight forced fumbles, the majority of them the product of his sacks. He is only expanding upon that this year. He has two and a half sacks through two games, tied for the most in the NFL, but he has also directly contributed to at least a couple more sacks. He helped set up sacks for Bud Dupree and Tyson Alualu with quarterback hits against the Broncos on Sunday.
Put it this way. Watt is spending more time in the backfield at this point than fullbacks are for the teams who actually deploy them. He likes the view from the other line of scrimmage, seeing the stands without having too look over the heads of the offensive linemen. So he just beats them off the line and has an unobstructed view of the stadium—and path to the quarterback.
If Watt can finish a few more of his high-quality pressures this year, he very well can not only break the Steelers’ franchise record for sacks in a single season, but also lead the league in sacks, and have a Defensive Player of the Year season.
At least that is the caliber of play that he has boasted through the first two games of the season. Of course this suggestion is predicated upon the premise that he keeps up what he’s doing. But barring injury, he’s given no indications over the course of his career that he plans on slowing down or going backwards any time soon.