The Houston Texans staked a claim for supremacy in the AFC South following a busy offseason of acquisitions. And for a while, it looked like the Texans would be among the top teams in the NFL.
But on Sunday, their Super Bowl contention hit a major snag when the team’s top defensive player went down with a season-ending injury.
Defensive end J.J. Watt, who has suffered two season-ending injuries over the past three years, will once again see his season cut short following an injury against the Oakland Raiders. Watt was initially questionable to return but was eventually ruled out in the second half of the contest.
The initial diagnosis was a shoulder injury sustained on a tackle of Raiders’ running back Josh Jacobs. But the injury for the defensive end was more serious than originally thought.
Pro Football Doc David Chao, on his injury feed, fears there may have been a pectoral tendon rupture which would require season-ending surgery to repair. Along with a video analyzing the situation, he released this update:
By limited video, there is significant worry that he tore his pectoral tendon in his left shoulder on the play where he tackled Josh Jacobs for a loss. After initially being ruled questionable and then out after the half, it appears he tore the pec tendon and that would mean surgery. If so, he would miss the rest of the season with surgery.
Watt later confirmed he would be missing the rest of the season in an emotional message on Twitter.
Between 2016-17, Watt played in just eight total games due to a pair of serious injuries that cost him most of the season.
In 2016, he underwent season-ending back surgery after reinjuring his back in a Week 3 matchup with New England. It was the second such surgery in three months with the first one forcing him to miss the entire preseason.
The following season, he suffered a tibial plateau fracture in the Texans’ fifth game and missed the remainder of that season as well. Watt’s absence that season was felt hard and cost the Texans a playoff berth and a 4-12 season.
Though he had played in every game prior to his first injury and did so during the 2018 season, Watt has started to pick up a reputation for being an injury-prone player. Although Watt is one of the best defensive players to ever suit it up, the past few seasons have been tumultuous for him as he has dealt with constant injury.
Who Steps Up?
Without Watt to disrupt opposing quarterbacks, coach Bill O’Brien may be forced to deploy Whitney Mercilus and Barkevious Mingo more in the pass-rushing game as well as defending against the run.
Mingo and Mercilus have both enjoyed strong seasons so far but they’ll definitely be tested to fill in for the top defensive end in the league. Defensive ends Carlos Watkins and Angelo Blackson will both see an increase in playing time as well if Watt does miss significant time with his shoulder injury.