J.J. Watt reaction: Super Bowl for Arizona Cardinals?
J.J. Watt just upped the amperage of the Arizona Cardinals franchise by agreeing to join the team as arguably the biggest free agent splash of 2021.
Here's what the sports world was saying on Monday about the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year's decision.
J.J. Watt could push the Arizona Cardinals over the top
Touchdown Wire's Doug Farrar is a big fan of the J.J. Watt signing for the Cardinals.
He wrote about how Chandler Jones' presence will really help Watt in Arizona.
"Injuries have complicated Watt’s overall legacy over the last few seasons, and he has amassed just nine sacks in the last two seasons, but as is the case with sack totals in any instance, that doesn’t tell the whole story," Farrar wrote. "In 2020, Watt also had 11 quarterback hits, 29 quarterback hurries, and 34 stops on a defensive line that wasn’t exactly packed with other stars. Last season, the Texans had 33 solo sacks (middle of the pack) and 211 total pressures (sixth-worst in the league), which means that Watt had 21.3% of the team’s total pressures. That will no longer be a problem for Watt; the presence of edge-rusher Chandler Jones alone will give Watt more opportunities to find single teams among blockers and more pressure opportunities. As it turns out, this is kind of a big deal."
Super Bowl for Cardinals?
The Big Lead's Kyle Koster wrote about how J.J. Watt can win a Super Bowl with the Arizona Cardinals.
"The knee-jerk reaction has tended to question — either implicitly or explicitly — Watt's motivations and if a financial windfall may be more of a factor than competing for a championship," Koster wrote. "And while the Cardinals are not exactly nearing the summit of the NFL's highest peak, it's not as though they're at the base of the mountain without proper climbing equipment. Arizona was not a playoff team in 2020 but weren't far off, finishing 8-8. Kyler Murray, in his second year, took some demonstrable strides in his development, improving his QBR by more than 11 points and rushing for 819 yards while finding the end zone with more efficiency in his sophomore campaign. DeAndre Hopkins, arguably the best wide receiver on the planet, is returning and will be hungry to succeed with his former Texans teammate by his side once again. Christian Kirk is poised for further breakout, and Larry Fitzgerald is Larry Fitzgerald. Watt will join forces with Chandler Jones and be tasked with getting to the quarterback knowing full well there's a bevy of playmakers in the secondary to capitalize. With the No. 16 pick in the draft, the opportunity for an immediate contributor exists."
How will Arizona use Watt?
Touchdown Wire's Mark Schofield wrote about how Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph can rely on Watt in his bevy of sub packages.
"The addition of Watt to the Cardinals defense is perhaps a classic case of the strong getting stronger," Schofield wrote. "How so? In terms of pressuring the quarterback. Last season the Arizona defense pressured the opposing passer on 169 snaps, fifth-most in the league. That translated to pressure on 25.9% of defensive snaps, eighth-most in the NFL and just ahead of the vaunted front of the Washington Football Team. Also, remember that much of that production was done without the talented Chandler Jones. Coming off an incredible 2019 campaign where he set a career-high with 19 sacks — earning him his second First-Team All-Pro selection — Jones appeared in only five games, as he was lost for the season with a torn bicep muscle. As such, defensive coordinator Vance Joseph had to find different ways to generate pressure. Once such way was through a variety of sub packages. Using lighter personnel groups, Joseph was able to use athletes to get pressure on passers and generate confusion up front."
Watt an upgrade for Cardinals ...
... but it's up to his coaches to help him thrive. That was the view from USA Today's "For The Win," which went on to say the move was a bit surprising considering Watt has said he wants to win a ring prior to the close of his career, thus implying the Cardinals aren't close to a Super Bowl yet.
The post by Charles McDonald noted that as much as Watt's presence could mean to the Cardinals' pass rush, already pretty disruptive, it's his work against the run that could make this risky and expensive move worthwhile. "Last season, the Cardinals defense ranked 24th in opposing yards per carry (4.6), 16th in rushing success rate (41.1%), and 14th in expected points added per rush (-0.073). They didn’t have the worst run defense out there, but Watt should help them create more splash plays against the run."
The piece went on to suggest the Cardinals might consider using Watt as an interior rusher as opposed to an edge rusher. "He did blow by offensive tackles a few times last year, but at this point in his career his athleticism might best be served as a three technique in rush packages," McDonald wrote.
'A complete team here'
On the Pat McAfee Show, the former NFL punter and no-filtered talk show host said this was the logical next step for a team already set up on offense.
"If you're the Arizona Cardinals, this is what you're thinking: The defensive side of the ball was our problem. ... As you watched the games go along, all you thought to yourself was, if the defense could get a stop, if the defense could get a stop, Kyler (Murray) might be able to do his thing. You bring in J.J., you bring in some more leadership into that building.
"Now the Arizona Cardinals have Kyler Murray going into his third year where hopefully he'll be even better than he's ever been ... Now you've got to think to yourself, with Budda Baker on the back end, hopefully J.J., Chandler Jones will be able to get pressure off the edges, we'll be a complete team here. Good for the Arizona Cardinals, good for J.J."
The Cardinals might want to come up with a catchy nickname for its defense, or at least the pass rush. ESPN noted that the Cardinals now have the tandem — Jones and Watt — with the most sacks in the NFL since 2012.
"Last season, the Cardinals ranked tied for 4th in the NFL with 48 sacks – led by Chandler Jones. Since Jones joined the Cardinals in 2016, he ranks 2nd in the NFL with 61.0 sacks. Going back to 2012, nobody has more sacks than the new tandem of Jones and Watt."
Bad news for Seattle
It didn't take long for people to notice that life just got a lot more challenging for the Seattle Seahawks, Russell Wilson and his offensive line. Tweeted Jake Heaps of Seattle's 710 ESPN Seattle:
"You’ve gotta be kidding me.... Rams: Top 5 Defensive Line led by Aaron Donald
49ers: Top 5 Defensive Line led by Nick Bosa
Cardinals: Chandler Jones and JJ Watt
Seahawks might want REALLY want take offensive line acquisition this offseason seriously
This, of course, on top of ongoing issues between Wilson and the Seahawks that have led to rampant speculation the quarterback would be OK being traded.
The Seattle Times' Bob Condotta wrote that Watt's presence in Arizona "serves as that much more of a wake-up call for the Seattle Seahawks."
Cardinals seemingly not in picture
Before Monday's huge announcement, it was hard to find pundits and NFL media outlets who thought Watt had the Cardinals on his short list. Teams most often connected to Watt included Tennessee, Green Bay, Buffalo, Cleveland and Las Vegas. As recently as Monday morning CBS Sports' website was hinting Watt had narrowed his choice to three teams, none of them named Cardinals. Watt went on Twitter to shoot it down.
Last Thursday, outlets including ESPN were reporting Watt had received multiple offers, the most lucrative being in the $15-16 million range. These reports also mentioned the Pittsburgh Steelers, where his two brothers, T.J. and Derek, already play, as being in the mix.
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