J.J. Watt is no longer the highest paid defensive player in NFL history, but the burden on him only keeps growing.
Watt must continue to prop up the Bill O'Brien Texans by hook, crook or tight end cameo. No. 99 has become the NFL's version of the Little Dutch Boy trying to plug holes in the wall and hold back rushing water with his fingers.
On a day when even Chip Kelly's madness seemed a little less insane (hello DeMarco Murray!), the Texans only continue to soldier along on the margins of NFL free agency. They add a young safety (Rahim Moore) for a reasonable three-year, $12 million deal who should give Watt a little more support on defense. But it's hard to imagine Moore making up for what the Texans lost on offense — and promptly handed to their biggest rival.
Andre Johnson instantly makes Andrew Luck a better quarterback, a surer Super Bowl threat and a bigger thorn in J.J. Watt's side. Bungling the future of the Greatest Texan Ever blew up in the Texans faces in a most spectacular, predictable way. But in the end, Watt's the one who truly pays for it.
O'Brien certainly created another challenge when he pushed Johnson out. It's a good thing Watt inspires more belief than a Southern celebrity preacher.
Watt's the one who must carry the Texans for another season.
The Texans are more dependent on the should have been NFL MVP than ever. O'Brien — an offensive coach — deserves credit for putting so many resources into his defense. From the vital Kareem Jackson resigning to the smart Moore pickup, O'Brien's shown a clear understanding of which unit is the Texans' most potentially dominant one.
Still . . . Watt and the D can't do it all.
New quarterback pickup Brian Hoyer isn't close to the bum that many in the Houston media want you to believe. He's a clear upgrade over Ryan Fitzpatrick. And he very well could beat out Ryan Mallett for the starting job. But any quarterback needs weapons. And well into the heart of free agency, the Texans are desperately missing a second receiver, a viable tight end not named Watt and the pass catching scatback O'Brien himself said he desired.
Watt has to be sizing up a monster challenge. Meanwhile, Andre Johnson . . . is sizing up a Super Bowl run.
"It's a crazy situation — to be released and then sign with the team you could never beat," Johnson says in a Colts radio interview. "And go out here and try to win it all."
Johnson gives a two-word answer every time he's asked why he picked the Colts in free agency. Andrew Luck.
"I think he's a heck of a player," Johnson says. "A very special player."
Luck will take a 5-1 record against the Texans into his fourth season, but he's still more overhyped than true savant. Luck's been a great compiler, chucking the ball up nearly 40 times a game. Andre Johnson's presence will immensely help Luck take the next step and morph into a truly great quarterback who is worthy of the mega media love he already receives.
No. 80 — or, now No. 81 in Colts blue — can still play. Johnson instantly makes both Luck and speedster receiver T.Y. Hilton even more dangerous. That's more guaranteed bad news for the defensive driven Texans.
"Just a big receiver," Johnson says when asked what he brings to Indianapolis. "A big body receiver you can probably use in the red zone."
Yes that comes across as a near dig at the baffling inability of Texans quarterbacks past (with the exception of Case Keenum) to hit Johnson in the end zone. Look for Andre Johnson to set a career-high in touchdowns at age 34 in the Colts offense.
J.J. Watt's New Flock
O'Brien certainly created another challenge for his secondary when he pushed Johnson toward the door. It's a good thing J.J. Watt inspires more belief than a Southern celebrity preacher.
"Defense wins championships," Moore says, meeting the media in the lobby of NRG Stadium. "I realize that with this defense that we have, the players that are here, it’s a great fit for me . . .
"We do have the best defensive player on the planet."
Moore should make the secondary a little better, joining his offseason training partners Kareem Jackson and D.J. Swearinger, and still near Pro Bowl level cornerback Johnathan Joseph. But in the end, it once again comes down to Watt.
Andre instantly makes Luck a better quarterback, a surer Super Bowl threat and a bigger thorn in Watt's side.
"He’s definitely going to make us DBs' jobs easier, " Moore says. "Make the whole defense’s job easier. I’ve heard incredible things about him as far as his work ethic. I’ve never heard someone talk about a player like this in my life."
The lure of playing with J.J. Watt for other defensive players is becoming more and more apparent. But when does the burden become too much? Absolutely needing another beyond superhuman season from Watt is expecting an awful, awful lot. Watt's 2014 is one of the greatest and most impactful single seasons in professional football history.
And it pushed the Texans to 9-7 and on the very outside edge of the playoffs.
Now the offense is worse and Watt must do even more? Yes, no one relishes a challenge more or attacks one better than Justin James Watt. At some point, you have to wonder if the Texans aren't going to grind Watt down under the ever increasing burden they're shifting onto him though.
Hoyer's not the only who could use another receiving threat. No. 99 needs one even more.