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Focus on: J.J. Watt
The Houston Texans will apply more pressure on Sunday at Reliant Stadium than the Seahawks have faced this season, and the primary pressure point will be wherever J.J. Watt is lined up on any give snap.
Watt, the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year after leading the league with 20.5 sacks last season, is as relentless as he is productive; as fast as he is physical; as concerning as it can get for an offense that will be without Pro Bowl left tackle Russell Okung and won’t have right tackle Breno Giacomini at 100 percent, if it has him at all because of a sore knee.
Into all this hoopla steps Tom Cable, the Seahawks’ rock-solid offensive line coach.
“Regardless of who he is, our whole thing is doing things right, whether we’re playing him or anybody else,” Cable said. “So he’s really not our concern. Our concern is us doing it right.”
“He’s a star player,” offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said of the 6-foot-5, 289-pound Watt. “He really does a great job. He’s tenacious. He works hard. He’s long. He’s creates a lot of issues. So he’s definitely someone we have to account for and make sure he doesn’t wreck the whole day for us.”
And you do that by? “You just have to be smart with it,” Bevell said. “There are all different kinds of things that we can do, and we need to do all those different kinds of things to make sure we don’t let it become a game all about him.”
One way to defuse the pass-rushing side of Watt’s game is to run the ball, something the Seahawks have done with mixed results in their first three games. Another is to come up with blocking schemes that don’t tie up too many hands in the passing game.
“All those things will come into play,” Bevell said.
And it’s not just Watt, who has three sacks and seven QB hits this season. It’s inside linebacker Brian Cushing, who also rushes on most plays and has 1.5 sacks; Antonio Smith, the end opposite Watt who also has 1.5 sacks; outside linebackers Brooks Reed and Whitney Mercilus, who become the ends when the Texans go to their nickel package; and the aggressive play-calling of defensive coordinator Wade Phillips.
“Protection is paramount this week,” Bevell said.
But it’s not like the Seahawks don’t know what’s coming – or that Watt will be coming.
“The first thing you do is you just lock it in and say, ‘Hey, they’re going to come after you 100 percent of the time,’ ” Cable said. “Whether they do or not, that’s their call. But we’re just ready for it with every play.”