J.J. Watt, Texans on lookout for Andy Dalton's quick-pass ability

CINCINNATI -- J.J. Watt recorded 20.5 sacks for the Houston Texans last season, matching a career high.

None of them came on the Cincinnati Bengals' Andy Dalton, a quarterback the Texans faced in Week 12.

Dalton's team was one of four whose offensive line wasn't devoured by Watt last year. In a sack-free performance, Dalton led Cincinnati to a 22-13 road victory a short drive from where he grew up. He hopes history can repeat itself Monday night. With the Texans coming to Dalton's current home Monday night, the Bengals offensive linemen would like to do nothing more than to keep their quarterback clean as they protect him from the NFL's best defensive player.

While the line must do its share of blocking to keep Dalton upright, he can protect himself by consistently showcasing his patented quick-trigger release.

"They have a really good quick game where they get the ball out quick to their quick receivers," Texans coach Bill O'Brien said on a conference call with Bengals media Wednesday. "A.J. Green, a lot of his catches are three-step [drop] catches where he turns it into a big gain because of his ability to run and break tackles."

Green did in fact catch a series of short passes in that Bengals win at Houston last season. Of the 12 passes Green caught on his way to a single-game career high, only two traveled 10 or more yards in the air. Still, he ended up with 121 yards receiving, and, again, Dalton was sack-free.

This season, Mohamed Sanu has been a go-to option for the Bengals on quick, blitz-beating slant routes. Marvin Jones was a key target in short-yardage drag patterns in Week 9 against the Browns. Twice he caught passes while running those five-yard routes and turned them into gains of more than 20 yards.

The numbers prove O'Brien knows what he's talking about. Dalton over the years has been one of the league's quickest at passing the ball once it's been snapped. Since he was drafted in 2011, Dalton has the league's quickest passing time, taking an average of just 2.31 seconds to get the ball from the center and out of his hand in the form of a pass. This season, he has the second-quickest release time behind New England's Tom Brady, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Brady attempts passes on average in 2.10 seconds; Dalton does it in 2.17.

By wasting little time in the pocket and passing quickly, Dalton cuts down on how long opposing pass-rushers have to get to him. It means rush ends and linebackers at least have to get their hands up while advancing into the backfield. Otherwise, they'll have no chance at preventing Dalton from connecting on the throws that have become his hallmark.

"Andy does a great job getting the ball out and getting it to his first read if he's open, and getting it out of his hands before [defenders] can get there," Watt said. "That definitely helps their passing game."