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NFL Bull Market Benefits T.J. Watt and Other Pass Rushers

  • September 15, 2021

Watt is the younger brother of J.J. Watt, the three-time defensive player of the year who signed with the Arizona Cardinals in March. The elder Watt had a quiet debut on Sunday, but his teammate, the two-time All-Pro Chandler Jones, sacked Ryan Tannehill five times and forced him to fumble twice, sparking a 38-13 upset of the Tennessee Titans. The Cardinals haven’t had a winning season since 2015, but the Watt-Jones tandem makes them credible playoff contenders.

Pass rushers are best collected in bundles: A Jones or a Watt can be double-teamed if he is the defense’s only threat. But there are only so many double teams to go around. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers demonstrated this principle in Super Bowl LV when Shaquil Barrett, Jason Pierre-Paul, Ndamukong Suh, Vita Vea and Devin White overwhelmed the injury-ravaged Kansas City Chiefs offensive line, forcing three sacks, two interceptions and a long evening of desperate Mahomes scrambles in a 31-9 Buccaneers rout.

The N.F.L. is often called a “copycat league,” but it is more of a “cut and paste the term paper from Wikipedia” league: Coaches and executives are not very subtle about their plagiarism. Once they saw the Buccaneers treat Mahomes like a tennis ball at a dog park, nearly every would-be contender sought to beef up its pass rush.

The Bills drafted University of Miami defender Gregory Rousseau (15.5 sacks in his final college season) in the first round and Wake Forest defender Carlos “Boogie” Basham (20.5 collegiate sacks) in the second.

The Titans lured the sack specialist Bud Dupree (eight sacks in an injury-shortened 2020 season) away from the Steelers, who kept pace by signing Ingram (49 career sacks for the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers).

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/15/sports/football/jj-watt-pass-rushers.html

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