Can J.J. Watt top 2012 for Texans?

To review: J.J. Watt’s defensive player of the year season in 2012 included 107 tackles, 20.5 sacks, 39 tackles for loss, 42 quarterback hits, 16 batted passes, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

“It was the best I’ve ever seen, the best I’ve ever been around,” Houston Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips recently reiterated.

Watt is the biggest sports star Houston has seen in some time and I don’t think he’ll let up for a second in preparing for his third year, even as he allows himself to enjoy his celebrity.

Still, one has to wonder: Can he match that enormous season or is a statistical drop-off almost inevitable?

The Titans drafted right guard Chance Warmack in part because they think he will be able to slow Watt down. The Colts also emphasized their interior offensive line in the draft. Those moves will hardly make Watt scared. They simply serve to help illustrate how big of a concern he is.

“We started seeing it toward the last of the year, they started hollering in the field, ‘Don’t let him get to the quarterback,’ that sort of thing,” Phillips said. “Teams were even drafting for him, it sounded like.

“He’s going to draw a lot of attention, but as long as you have other guys who can rush, it’s hard. We put him in some situations where he’s one-on-one and we also move him around quite a bit. We think those things will help.

“There will be more attention on him, there will be more trying to see where he is and trying to help. But I think they tried to do that last year quite a bit. He’s a great player. He’s going to do well no matter what.”

But can he match those stats?

“I don’t know if you can have a better year than last year. He had a tremendous year,” Phillips said. “I’ve never been around a defensive linemen that made that many plays. And I had Reggie White, I had Bruce Smith, I had Elvin Bethea who’s in the Hall of Fame, Curly Culp who’s fixing to go in the Hall of Fame. Nobody’s had a year like that kid had last year.

“You just don’t make that many plays. It was a phenomenal year. I don’t know if he can have a better year than that. He’s working towards it, I know that. He’s first in every drill we do, he wins every wind sprint that they run out there, he’s a leader. The sky’s the limit for that guy.”