Watt has recorded more sacks against the Jaguars in his career than all but one team he has faced and he has sacked Bortles six times in two meetings, which makes Bortles the second-most sacked QB of Watt’s career.
That doesn’t bode well for Sunday’s matchup with Houston. Watt can line up anywhere, but he has spent the majority of the time this season lined up on the left side of the defensive formation. That means he’ll be going against rookie right guard A.J. Cann and right tackle Jermey Parnell, who is nursing a sore knee.
"He’s definitely a guy you need to keep an eye on the entire game," left tackle Luke Joeckel said. "Last year we did some good things but he did make plays. We can’t give up the sacks that he got us against us [in 2014]. That’s one of the things we definitely need to fix."
Watt has 11.5 sacks in eight games against the Jaguars, which is a half sack shy of the 12 he has in eight meetings with Tennessee. He also has sacked Bortles six times, all last season. The only quarterback Watt has sacked more times is Andrew Luck (8.0) -- but that total is over six games.
The Jaguars actually felt like they did a good job against Watt in 2014, and they did at times. The player that had the most success against Watt was right guard Brandon Linder, who was the Jaguars’ best offensive lineman as a rookie. Linder is out for the season with a torn labrum in his shoulder, so if Watt lines up on the left side of the defensive formation he’ll be facing Cann and Parnell, who didn’t practice on Wednesday because of a sore knee.
"I’m doing a lot of different things," Watt said. "You never know where I’m going to come from. I might be coming from one place, another place. That’s part of the fun of this defense is you never know where I’m coming from."
Logically, though, you’d expect the Texans and Watt to attack Cann, the Jaguars’ third-round pick, as much as possible.
Cann, who made his second career start last week against Tampa Bay, is eager for the challenge.
"He’s a really good player and I look forward to playing against him," Cann said. "It’s going to be great competition. From watching film he’s very good with his hands and very good with eluding the pass blocker, so I just look forward to trying to get my hands on him early and seeing what I can do with him."
Cann admitted that he has had a “whoa” moment where he realized he was going to be facing a player he’s watched on TV, but said it quickly passed.
"It was the same way last week with Gerald McCoy," Cann said. "It’s the same way this week. I see him and I’m like, ‘Man, I’m going against probably the defender in the NFL.’ It’s going to be a challenge and I look forward to it."
He’s going to have help. So will anyone that has to block Watt. The Jaguars are only rarely going to tell one lineman to take him one-on-one.
Indianapolis managed to neutralize Watt last week by chipping him with backs and having tight end Dwayne Allen help on the edge. The Colts also revved up the running game (98 yards by Frank Gore) and used quick throws to keep Watt from impacting pass plays. Watt ended up with no sacks and didn’t have a solo tackle for just the second time in his 69-game career.
Coach Gus Bradley, however, doesn’t buy the argument that Watt isn’t as effective this season as he was in 2014. Entering Week 6 last season Watt had only 2.0 sacks – he has 4.0 now – and he went on to finish with 20.5, with the bulk of those coming against the Jaguars.
"I think people are saying he’s not having much impact. Well, every time you watch teams they’re paying particular attention to him and what he can do," Bradley said. "[There are] different ways they may be trying to limit his ops but he’s a great player. He’s going to get opportunities.
"I know I’ve seen them where they chip. I’ve seen them where they double him and he’s got off where throws are made and he still hits the quarterback."
It’s even more important the Jaguars limit the hits Bortles takes because he’s dealing with a sprained right (throwing) shoulder.
"Everyone’s got to be prepared to block him," Joeckel said. "Everyone knows how good of a player he is."