Cardinals New 5-Time All-Pro Pass Rusher Makes NFL’s Top 100

Getty Images J.J. Watt participates in an off-season workout.

The NFL started shelling out the top 100 players as voted on by current players. The annual announcement aired on NFL Network Sunday evening starting from 100 through 41.

While there should be a couple more Arizona Cardinals players to come, only one Cards’ player was listed among the best players so far. No defensive player has made the list more than this player in its 10-year existence.

His name is J.J. Watt. He came in at No. 66 in this years’ top 100 list.

Watt came in at No. 45 in the 2020 list. While the sack numbers weren’t there for Watt in 2020 (5), Rams left tackle Andrew Whitworth had this to say.

“He’s (Watt) going to affect the game in a lot bigger ways than just sacks,” said Whitworth. He’ll make an impact for that defense. The way he goes about work. His effort will be a great influence on that defense as well.”

Watt hasn’t played a down yet for his new NFL team yet but is already putting the Cardinals on the map with his sensational leadership, abilities and love for the game.

Watt’s Achievements

If free-agent wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald decides to not come back, Watt is certainly a great replacement for the locker room. Before every other accolade, Watt has something to cherish forever. He was named the Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2017.

Watt raised over $40 million for people affected by devastating Hurricane Harvey.

Watt was the heartbeat for the Houston Texans. When Watt first entered the league in 2011, the Texans made the playoffs and won the AFC South division for the first time in their 10-year existence. Watt was named a Pro Bowler and First-Team All-Pro in four straight seasons. That included Defensive Player of the Year awards in 2012, 2014 and 2015. Although the Texans never made it far in the playoffs with Watt, he had six sacks in eight playoff games.

Watt’s 2012 season stands as one of the best seasons ever for a defensive player. He ended the season with 69 solo tackles, 20.5 sacks, 16 passes defended, four forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries.

Watt would have another 20 sack season in 2014, the only player in NFL history to have 20+ sacks in multiple seasons.

The Texans franchise leader in sacks and forced fumbles belongs to Watt. His battle with injuries, which is too many to mention, and grit to stay on the field was a core reason why he’s heralded by the league.

How Watt Got to Arizona

The tides began to turn after the Texans lost to the Kansas City Chiefs in the playoffs in 2019. Then-GM and coach Bill O’Brien inexplicably traded star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to the Cardinals for David Johnson and a second-round pick.

After the 4-12 season in 2020, the Texans began to spiral out of control. Houston fired O’Brien mid-season and brought a questionable hire in GM Nick Caserio from New England in the offseason. Executive Vice President of Football Operations Jack Easterby also turned off many players, including Watt. Easterby didn’t acknowledge Watt in a team meeting after the season. The front office didn’t listen to input from star quarterback Deshaun Watson which led to his wanting out of Houston.

It was justifiable that Watt wanted out. He got his wish. The team granted his release on February 21 and less than a month later, Watt announced to the whole world where he was heading on March 1.

The Cardinals went 8-8 in 2020 and needed veteran presence. They wanted a pass rush that would make them a step closer to the playoffs. Chandler Jones and a healthy J.J. Watt can play in this league.

Coach Kliff Kingsbury on March 4 said, “I would say J.J. Watt has the type of presence that you don’t want to let him down. You saw and you’ve heard some of those quotes come out of Tampa with Tom (Tom Brady), and guys just don’t want to let that type of player with that type of work ethic, and that type of legend — they don’t want to let him down. They don’t want to be that guy that doesn’t hold up their end of the bargain.”

Don’t Expect Watt in Preseason

The Cardinals don’t seem to believe Watt will be ready for the preseason due to a hamstring injury, but that he’s on track to be ready for week one according to Kingsbury.

“We know what he can do,” said Kingsbury. “Whether he takes a snap in (camp) practice or preseason games. We’ll get him to Week 1, allow him to (only) practice that week if that’s what it takes, and go from there.”

Watt has missed 32 games in the last five years due to injury. It’s crucial to remain cautious and diligent to the now-32-year-old defensive end, especially in a season where it’s now 17 games.

In the meantime, Watt expects to be ready for Week 1.

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