LOOKING AHEAD

Here's why J.J. Watt's future with the Houston Texans remains uncertain

Watt can't wait on a rebuild. Photo by Bobby Ellis/Getty Images.

A few weeks ago, it appeared as if J.J. Watt had played his last game as a member of the Houston Texans. They had just suffered a 35-20 loss to the Green Bay Packers, resulting in the Texans falling to 1-6 on the season. With the trade deadline looming, a disgruntled Watt walked off the field inside NRG Stadium. The consensus around the league believed that the future Hall of Famer would be one of several players rumored to be on the move in a potential fire sale.

However, the Texans stood pat. Not only did Houston not trade their franchise star, but refused to explore the market by defining Watt as one of their four untouchable players.

Watt, arguably the greatest player in franchise history, will finish his ninth season playing on a team that appears to be heading straight towards a rebuild at the conclusion of the year. It's a path the 31-year-old defensive end says he has no interest in being a part of during the twilight of his career.

"I don't think it's any secret that I don't have 10 years left in this league," Watt said during his virtual press conference on Wednesday. "I personally believe that I do have a few more great ones left in me. But, you also can't — I'm not looking to rebuild. I'm looking to go after a championship and that's what I want to do. Whatever is in the best interest of the Houston Texans, that's in the best interest of myself. But, like I said, I'm interested in winning a championship in this league. That's every player's goal."

Watt has stated an infinite amount of times that bringing a Super Bowl title to Houston remains his ultimate goal. Deshaun Watson echoed the same objective nearly 20 minutes later via Zoom, but the Texans are far from title contention.

In a season that began with a four-game losing streak and the jettison of Bill O'Brien, the Texans will watch the 2020 post-season unfold from the comfort of their homes — more likely than not. With little draft capital and money extremely scarce, it is going to be a daunting task for Houston to address their lack of talent ahead of the 2021 season.

In reality, it may take the Texans two years to get back to playoff contention and another before they can reestablish themselves as Super Bowl contenders. That's an additional three more seasons wasted for Watt — who would be 34-years-old and on the brink of retirement.

Although the Texans retained his services past this year's trade deadline, the idea of Watt finishing his career draped in another team's jersey is still a high possibility. He has one year left on his current contract, and it is hard to imagine Watt still playing for the Texans beyond the 2021 season — especially if Houston has not made any improvements to their team.

A pending free-agency and a distressed star could alas be the formula for a significant breakup between Watt and the Texans as early as next spring.

"We've won some division championships and that's great, but that's not the goal. If your goal is not to win the Super Bowl and your goal is not to do everything in your power to make that happen and make your organization in the best possible situation for that, then that's not going to happen. So, that is my goal. That's why I fought back from all these injuries because that's the goal, and that's what I'm still working towards." — Watt.

Coty M. Davis is a reporter for ESPN 97.5 Houston/SportsMap covering the Houston Texans. He is also the co-host of Locked On Texans, a part of the Locked On Podcast Network. Follow Coty on Twitter @CotyDavis_24.

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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