It was the one piece of news that the Houston Texans were hoping they would not hear concerning J.J. Watt, his 2016 season is now coming to an end. Watt has been dealing with multiple injuries going back to last year but it was his back injury that put him out for the remainder of this season. The timetable for his comeback after the initial surgery was short, nearly six weeks after he had a microdiscectomy procedure in late July to repair a herniated disk. The recovery from the disk injury appeared to indicate that Watt was beating the odds, showing his seemingly super human powers by getting back to the field, lifting weights with his teammates, passing a conditioning test in the middle of the preseason, and then a conditioning test to get him back on the field.
Questions now arise on what exactly happened with Watt.
How did the Texans let their $100 million investment back on the field in such a hurry?
Did the coaches realize that this was not the same Watt after practices and two games?
Did team doctors consult with Watt’s medial group to discuss how serious the injury was?
Was Watt upfront with team personnel on how he felt out on the field?
These are all questions that will not be answered for the public but they all exist in the back of their minds.
Watt was back on the field for week one of the season and, with no training camp under his belt, Watt played in 86% (Week 1), 91% (Week 2), and, less than five days later, 81% (Week 3) of the team's defensive snaps. That was 157 snaps on defense, a quantity for which Watt was clearly not ready. Watt lacked the fire and explosion that made him the player he has been for the past five seasons. His feet were slow and cumbersome, resulting in performances that were not up to the defensive player of the year standard that opposing teams feared. Through three games, teams had figured out that his was not the same Watt and ran their offenses accordingly, treating Watt as an everyday player - not as the impact player he was from previous seasons.
Now the Texans have to pick up the pieces and figure out how they will continue on without Watt and, if both parties are on the same page, this is about getting Watt healthy for the 2017 season, not bringing him back late in 2016. There is plenty to accomplish for Watt and it starts with his health; football is secondary for him right now as his long term future comes into play. The Texans will also have to focus on is what is best for Watt as well as the team's future.
Now life without Watt starts and it will be up to defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel to find the medium to soften the void left by his top defensive player. It will take creativity from him to make Jadeveon Clowney, Antonio Smith, Christian Covington, and Joel Heath work as the team's primary options at defensive end.
The Texans way of life will change and how teams attack the Texans will change also. From the health aspect, the Texans will be in a better spot from this point of view than they were in the first three games of the season. The Texans have survived with an injured Watt on the field, now they have to prove they can survive for the remainder of the 2016 season without Watt. Pressure will not only fall on the players but also the coaching staff to get creative and ensure all three phases of the game lock.
Watt will be missed but this is the harsh reality of the NFL. We are witnessing how quickly injuries can change not only a team but also a player’s career.