The Giants have a struggling offensive line — to go along with their struggling overall offense — which could mean bad news for Big Blue when All-Pro defensive lineman J.J. Watt comes to town.
Watt, arguably the best defensive player in the league, is the leader of a surprising Texans (2-0) team that has already matched last season’s win total. The former Defensive Player of the Year is routinely amongst the statistical leaders on Houston and has a good chance of improving his numbers considering he’ll spend the afternoon against either an injury-prone center (J.D. Walton), a rookie guard (Weston Richburg) or a journeyman guard (John Jerry).
Head coach Tom Coughlin is well aware of the havoc Watt can cause.
“He’s a very good football player, very energetic. They move him around and play him in different spots. He comes off the ball very well and has outstanding energy and endurance, so there’s no doubt we have to be aware of him,” Coughlin said, adding the Giants will look to game plan around Watt. “There are certainly ways that you can create attention towards a great player inside.”
Quarterback Eli Manning also acknowledged Watt’s greatness. But he then preferred to prop up his own offensive line by saying the improving unit can actually dictate tempo and neutralize Watt through attrition.
“He’s all he’s worked up to be. He’s a good player. We’ve got to know where he is at all times [and] make sure he doesn’t take over the game,” Manning said. “But I think the line is playing better, especially when we have long drives and get a rhythm, and especially when we go no-huddle. If we can get some 12-play drives or so, it slows things down. We need to continue to run the ball and execute short, quick passes. If that happens, then you can kind of sense the defensive line is getting tired and that’s an advantage for us.”
Watt has just two tackles and sack on the season, but he’s been a disruptive force in ways that won’t show on a stat sheet — including a quarterback hurry last week that resulted in a Texans’ interception. Long known as a tremendous shot-blocker, the 6-foot-5 Pro Bowler also has two passes defended and has even dabbled on the offensive side of the ball.
A former tight end at Central Michigan before transferring to Wisconsin, Watt lined up at tight end last week in Oakland and registered his first touchdown reception of his career. New Texans head coach Bill O’Brien said he could see them “using him more and more moving forward.”
Whichever side of the ball he plays, the Giants say they’ll be ready.
“If he lines up at tight end, then I’ll cover him. Just like I did in the Pro Bowl,” said defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul.
Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell also acknowledged that Watt “will be a point of emphasis if he lines up on offense, for sure.”
Coughlin, however, said if the Giants (0-2) are to end their schneid, they’ll need to focus on within, first, and try and fix their own issues instead of worrying about one particular player.
“No question he’s good and they’re a good team overall. You go back to John Wooden [and worry about] … it’s your team. Your concern is your team,” Coughlin said. “Obviously the opponent coming in here is good and you’re looking for strengths and weaknesses [and] how they play, but your team is where you focus most of your attention and where your energy goes. You try to correct the things that prevent us from winning a game. And go from there.”
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.