J.J. Watt presents big (and familiar) challenge for Rick Wagner

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Of all the passer-rushers that Rick Wagner has blocked this season, the Baltimore Ravens right tackle is the most familiar with J.J. Watt. They used to go against each other during their days at Wisconsin.

Wagner, though, doesn't consider having experience against the NFL's top defensive player as much of an advantage.

"He's obviously gotten a lot better since college," said Wagner, who will line up against Watt on Sunday when the Ravens play at the Houston Texans. "I don't know if it will help that much."

Watt is not only the favorite to win his second NFL Defensive Player of the Year award but he's in the conversation for NFL Most Valuable Player.

He's the first player in NFL history with five total touchdowns and at least one fumble return for a touchdown, one interception return for a touchdown and one receiving touchdown. He's the first player in NFL history with 10 or more sacks, five fumble recoveries, three forced fumbles and at least one touchdown.

"He's a big guy with smaller guy's speed," Wagner said.

Wagner said it's such a challenge to go against Watt one-on-one because he uses the swim move when you expect a bull rush, and vice versa. This is a great test to see where the Ravens' first-year starter stands.

According to Pro Football Focus, Wagner is the best right tackle in pass protection this season. He's allowed two sacks and no quarterback hits in his first year in replacing Michael Oher.

Even though he is among the most soft spoken players on the team, Wagner said he relishes a headline matchup like this one.

"Everything is just stepped up a little bit more," Wagner said. "Every step you take is even more important because it starts with your footwork. It's not that much room for error against these elite players."

Wagner and the Ravens' offensive line has done a spectacular job in protecting quarterback Joe Flacco this season.

The Ravens have allowed 16 sacks, the second-fewest in the NFL. This comes a year after Flacco was sacked a career-worst 48 times.

"We're going to have to attack him in certain ways. He's a good player," Flacco said of Watt. "But that's not necessarily on my mind or in my thoughts. I'm going out there to execute the play, and I always have confidence that my guys are going to do the same thing -- execute the play and do their job. Other than that, you can't really worry about it."

The Ravens are using practice squad player Steven Means to mimic Watt in practice. Means was a fifth-round pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2013.

"We believe our guys are ready for that challenge," coach John Harbaugh said, "but it's going to be a great challenge."

At least Wagner has an inkling of what to expect. So, who won most of those college battles between Watt and Wagner?

"It was a tie," Wagner said.

Would he be happy with a tie on Sunday?

"No, I hope to get the best of him," Wagner said.