Today Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt addressed the media for the first time during training camp. While answering questions Watt insisted he’s intent on taking his game to the next level in 2020, saying, “I want to be able to be a game wrecker, a guy teams scheme around. And I know Bud [Dupree] does as well.”
T.J. Watt ‘Has Reached the Next Level’
It isn’t just idle chatter, either. By all accounts, Watt has been looking better than ever during training camp. The other day The Athletic‘s Mark Kaboly said “T.J. Watt has reached that next level. I am not even talking about another solid practice Saturday night when it looked almost impossible for the left tackle to get a hand on him. I’m talking about what I’ve observed of him throughout the entire week.”
T.J. Watt vs. Zach Banner
One of the young offensive tackles who has been testing his skills against Watt in practice is Chucks Okorafor, who is battling Zach Banner for the starting right tackle job. Yesterday Okorafor missed practice with a groin issue, leaving Banner to contend with Watt.
That “didn’t slow down the All-Pro Watt, who had sack after sack and disruptive play after disruptive play mostly because Watt’s hands were better than Banner’s,” observed Kaboly.
“Watt has continued to be virtually unblockable this camp, especially when it comes to the inexperienced right tackles he’s gone up against daily,” added Kaboly.
Of course, Watt does help head coach Mike Tomlin get a good gauge on where Okorafor and Banner are at in terms of readiness of be a starting tackle in the NFL.
“Yeah, Watt won a lot of [battles], but Watt won a lot of them versus Chuks as well (last week),” Tomlin said. “Watt is a handful for one man on NFL playing surfaces, but what a great opportunity for those young right tackles vying for that spot. Watt is one of the very best in the business, and they get an opportunity to sharpen their sword against it every day.”
Kaboly took care to note that Banner did much better in the run-blocking portions of practice yesterday, but “the display Watt put on with his hands and speed left the guesswork out of where, in this instance, Banner is in terms of overall readiness.”
T.J. Watt’s Production To Date
Last year Watt produced a career high 14.5 sacks and eight forced fumbles in addition to two interceptions and eight passes defensed. He was also in on 55 total tackles and responsible for 36 quarterback hits and 14 tackles for loss.
But playing opposite fellow OLB Bud Dupree and in conjunction with stellar defensive line talent, it’s not unrealistic to think Watt could produce even better numbers in 2020 and help the Steelers achieve a new franchise record for sacks.
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