Should Texans Be Concerned With J.J. Watt?

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Texans defensive end J.J. Watt
J.J. Watt missed most of 2016 with a back injury. What if his best days are behind him?

Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt is one of the best defensive players in the NFL. However the 2016 season was cut short for Watt due to a herniated disc injury. With the severity of this type of injury is it now time for the Texans to be concerned?

Watt enjoyed one of his most productive seasons in 2015. That is what makes missing 13 games in 2016 so disappointing. Dropping from 17.5 sacks in 2015 to only one and a half in 2016 is not ideal. After week three, Watt was placed on injured reserve due to another herniated disc in his back. Surgery soon followed and his 2016 season was over.

Defense & Fumbles Table
Game Game Def Fumb Fumb Sack Sack Sack
Year Age Tm G GS PD FF FR Sk Tkl Ast
2015*+ 26 HOU 16 16 8 3 1 17.5 57 19
2016 27 HOU 3 3 0 1 1.5 1 7
Care Care 83 83 45 15 13 76.0 299 80
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
(a comparison of 2015 vs. 2016 for J.J. Watt)

After what was later found out to be a second surgery on a herniated disc, Houston needs to consider the possible shortened career of Watt. Herniated disc injuries are not easy to recover from. Rehabilitation after this type of injury is long and relatively stationary. For the first few months post-surgery, bending and twisting is not possible. Lifting any substantial weight is also discouraged.

These limitations to Watt severely hamper his ability to get back into NFL shape. Lifting weight, bending and twisting are necessary to play the defensive end position. Using tremendous amounts of torque to get around blocks is a must for a player like Watt. Bending around blocks and twisting to get free is commonplace for defensive ends.

Having to make these movements during a game will prove difficult for Watt for multiple reasons. Firstly, he will not be able to train properly to get ready for the season. Secondly, with his injury making those motions will not come as easy. Lastly, there is the mental factor.

One of the most underrated aspects of a serious injury is the mental factor. Anyone who has suffered a major injury, whether they admit it or not are afraid of aggravating the previous injury. NFL players are not immune to this mental block. This mental block will possibly prevent Watt from playing at the highest level and resulting in a drop off in play. A drop off that Watt nor the Texans want to happen.

There is the possibility that everything will be fine with Watt and he will return to his former dominant self. Equally as possible is regression and a mental block. Even if Watt regresses in 2017, just being who he is will make offensive coordinators have adjust their game plan for him. This only matters if Watt can stay healthy and avoid another back injury.

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