Chalk Talk With Babes: Containing JJ Watt

Featured, Sports and Bets — December 19, 2014 at 2:06 pm by

Any time you’re playing the Houston Texans, the image that will haunt you immediately is that of JJ Watt. The all-world defensive end now doubles as an offensive weapon, and pound for pound he is the best player in the NFL today. He is a freak of an athlete, and the centerpiece of any game plan. So how do you stop JJ Watt?


Watt will line up all over the defensive line, but predominately he will line up in a five technique on the offense’s right side. Five technique meaning he lines up slightly inside the right tackle, and is responsible for the B gap which is the gap between the guard and tackle. That is the standard alignment for a base 3-4 defensive end. On passing downs, sometimes he will stay inside and rush from a defensive tackle spot, but most of the time, he will kick out and rush from a more true defensive end position outside the offensive tackle.ft

Watt is lethal working on stunts in pass rushing situations. He has 16.5 sacks on the season, and a major chunk of those come from a stunt called a twist. A twist stunt is when the defensive end takes a hard step up the field like he is going to speed rush the tackle to the outside, attacking his outside shoulder. After that hard step, the end will plant his outside foot, and come underneath and rush inside through either the A or B gap. The defensive tackle, whom the end is stunting with, will rush hard through the C gap which is the area right outside the tackle. The purpose of this stunt is to confuse the offensive lineman into blocking the wrong player. Watt will play both positions, and excels at either spot. This is how the Texans try to use scheme to get Watt singled up on a blocker in pass rushing situations.

There are two schools of thought with offensive lineman handling stunts like the twist. It depends on the protection called, some have the lineman stay with their man wherever their man goes, but most of the time the lineman are responsible for an area. So if a guard is preparing to handle the defensive tackle on a pass rush, and the defense attempts a twist up front, the guard would pick up the stunting defensive end looping underneath. This is something the offensive lineman have to recognize and adjust to on the fly. This is why you want extremely intelligent guys up front playing on the O-line. Rick Wagner and Marshal Yanda should both be getting trips to Hawaii this year for the Pro Bowl, but they are going to have their hands full with Watt. Communication is the key, they have to be talking back and forth- “If he does this I have him” and vice versa.

Another way to aid the offensive lineman this week in handling Watt will be to use fullback/H back Kyle Juszczyk to either chip or completely double team him. That would mean throwing more out of  the base personnel of two backs, one tight end, and two receivers to keep Juszczyk on the field. This adds up to a great deal of play action in the game plan for the Ravens. But we all know play action is worthless if you haven’t established a running game.

If I’m Gary Kubiak trying to put together a game plan to establish the run against Watt and company, I’m gonna run right at Watt most of the day. That doesn’t sound smart right off the bat, but with a player like Watt, it’s the best way to attack him. Watt is quick, and has a nonstop motor. He jets down the line of scrimmage in pursuit and makes plays with his speed. By running right at him, you negate is biggest asset and make him stay stationary and protect his gap. Then, you can double team him at the point of attack to move him back off the ball. Now he is getting pushed back by 600 pounds worth of offensive lineman, and his speed is of no use to him.


A few weeks ago in Chalk Talk, when the Ravens took on the Dolphins, I discussed running at Cameron Wake to wear him down. The sheer size of Rick Wagner bearing down on the smaller Wake all day long caused Wake to crumble in the second half. Running the ball became that much easier the rest of the way, and the Ravens were able to break off some big gains. JJ Watt is not going to crumble or wear down. But what will happen is by consistently running at Watt, you’re not allowing him to take the game over as he is very prone to do. Turn him into a normal defensive lineman, by making him protect his gap.

A typical run play that the Ravens could execute with success against the Texans is the wham play. A wham means a double team at the point of attack on the defensive lineman by the tackle and guard. After the initial surge of the double team, in theory, the defensive lineman will be driven back and the tackle will peel off and pick up the backside pursuing linebacker. The fullback has the play-side linebacker on a wham block, and the half-back will read the block of the fullback and cut accordingly. The tackle getting to the backside backer will hopefully create a nice cutback lane for the runner. Every team in the NFL runs a version of this play, and the Ravens should run it ten times at Watt on Sunday.

If the Ravens don’t allow Watt to take over the game, they should have no problem moving the football and putting up enough points to beat a fourth string quarterback that was just signed this week. But stranger things have happened, and the way the Ravens could lose this game is by Watt and company wrecking havoc and creating turnovers. No turnovers and Watt held relatively in check, means the Ravens bring home a victory from Houston.

cover pic: vnews

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