Antonio Smith was last at his locker among the Texans at Gillette Stadium.
He was asked to describe J.J. Watt’s season.
“How can I put it in a different way than I’ve put it before?” he said. “It was amazing. Have I said amazing yet?”
Yeah, we told him.
“I’ve said amazing? Miraculous," Smith said. "What J.J. did this year, how he has played, it doesn’t happen often. It’s an all-around performance. ... I think he lead the league in tackles for loss, he led the league in sacks and for an interior defensive lineman, that’s almost unheard of.
"Not anymore; it’s J.J. Watt’s claim to fame. It’s going to be hard to duplicate it, because nobody’s ever done it before. [But] he’s still growing.”
We’ll find out if Watt wins defensive player of the year honors, named by a vote of a panel of 50 voters selected by the Associated Press, during a prime-time special on Saturday, Feb. 2.
In a poll of 376 players conducted by School of the Legends, which has a relationship with the NFLPA, 63.8 percent said Watt was defensive player of the year, which made him a runaway winner.
Still stinging from the loss in New England, Watt told Houston reporters Monday that he’ll come to appreciate his season of accomplishments in time.
“In a few weeks, I’ll sit back and look at it and say that was pretty cool,” he said. “It was crazy. But right now, this hurts. It’s a big loss for us, and it’s a team game. It’s never about one guy.”
Like a running back who gets his offensive line gifts to thank them for his blocking, Watt said he’ll do some shopping for the rest of the Texans D.
He’s about to turn 24, and is confident his best is still ahead.
“I’m 23 years old and two years into the league," Watt said. "I’m still learning what I’m doing out there,” he said. “I have a lot of time in this league, I hope, and a lot of improvement to make. My second year is not going to be my best year in the NFL. I can promise you that.”
One thing he'll have to adjust to is an influx of quality interior linemen. The Colts, Titans and Jaguars all need upgrades and will shop free agency and spend draft picks.
The rest of the division has to build with Watt in mind going forward, and he'll have to respond.