With the Houston Texans headed to Gillette Stadium for a Monday Night Football matchup with the Patriots in Week 14 (Monday, 8:30 p.m. on ESPN) that means both Patriots fans and a national audience will have a chance to watch one of the best players in all of football: defensive end J.J. Watt, whose 15 1/2 sacks pace the AFC.
The Texans' base defense is predicated upon a three-man front, which often minimizes production among defensive linemen, but that has not been the case for Watt.
On Tuesday, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick explained how Watt has been used in Houston's defense, both in their base and sub formations, and highlighted his diverse skill set.
"He's a really good player," he said of Watt. "And I think Houston, even though they're a 3-4 base, they're really an under team in their regular defense. It's more of a one-gap scheme, and I'd say he's a five technique a lot, and then when they go to sub, he's an inside rusher. They're in sub a lot; they're probably in sub more than they're in base. He certainly makes a lot of plays in the 3-4 defense.
"He's got excellent quickness and he's long," Belichick continued. "He does a good job rushing against everybody: the tackles, the guards, and he's very effective on (rush) games because of his speed and quickness and his length and his instincts."
Perhaps as impressive as Watt's 15 1/2 sacks through 12 games are his team-leading 15 passes defensed, a number that Belichick said would match the career total for some defensive linemen.
"Absolutely, yeah that's a career number for a lot of defensive linemen," he said. "In one season, it's remarkable really. Of course he's long and athletic, but he does have great instincts to get in the passing lane. He's getting to the quarterback and knocking him down (and) that's one thing, but if he's not, he's getting double teamed or sliding to him or something like that. He's also been very disruptive, not only knocking down balls, but some of those have resulted in interceptions."
And while Watt has garnered abundant attention for what he has done in the passing game, Belichick said he's a force against the run as well.
"He's really does a great job in the running game too," Belichick added. "He's quick, he can split single blocks and run plays down from behind. He's really a complete player. He does everything well."
Prior to the 2011 draft, many forecasted that Watt would be a player the Patriots would be interested in with the 17th overall selection. Houston prevented such a scenario from unfolding by taking Watt with the 11th pick, and Belichick praised the second-year player for his development since his college days at Wisconsin.
"I don't think he had the opportunities to do some of the things that he's had to do in the National Football League," he said of Watt in college. "He was a productive player in college, but a little raw, a little underdeveloped in terms of some football experience. But obviously as he's gained that, he's continued to really grow with it, and he's become very adept and proficient at a number of different things.
"His athletic ability, his ability to be a better technique player, to recognize things, to play in space, all that has grown, it's grown quickly," he said. "It's very impressive. He's taken all the athletic ability that he has and has really played with it to a high level."