Is he like Randy White? Or more like Howie Long?
Questions about Texans defensive end J.J. Watt immediately evoked Hall of Fame comparisons from the Jets' coaching staff. And for good reason.
"He's probably the best defensive end, so he does a lot of things better than other guys,'' coach Todd Bowles said yesterday of Watt, who is second in the NFL with 91/2 sacks. "I don't know if he has any weaknesses. He just has a live motor, he keeps himself in shape, he runs like a linebacker/DB, he's strong.
"I mean, I don't have any adjectives that add for the things that he can do. He's just one of those rare players that doesn't come around very often.''
So how do the Jets (5-4) stop him?
The answer is far more complicated, which is why the coaching staff has spent more than a week studying what Houston's defense does well. But game-planning for the Texans (4-5) means figuring out ways to neutralize Watt. Not only is he a pass-rushing threat, but his 34-inch arms and 821/2-inch wingspan also help him bat down passes. Watt also has great instincts and surprising quickness for his 6-5, 289-pound frame.
"He's one of a kind, I would say,'' Jets tackle Breno Giacomini said.
Offensive coordinator Chan Gailey likened game-planning for Watt to preparing for Long, a Super Bowl champion and two-time All-Pro with the Raiders from 1981-93.
"He reminds me of the way we used to have to handle Howie Long -- same type of player. You have to know where he is and you have to account for him every play,'' said Gailey, who called Watt "one of the premier defensive players in the league, if not the premier defensive player in the league.''
Watt also poses a threat on offense; he had three touchdown catches last season along with his 19 sacks.
When asked about the possibility of seeing Watt as an eligible receiver on the goal line, defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers said: "We have to leave no stone unturned. This is kind of a vital game for both teams, so I don't think they'll hold anything back.''
On defense, Watt typically lines up on the right side, but Gailey pointed out that the Texans move him around "just enough to make it difficult on you.''
Wherever Watt is, the Jets will have to be ready for him. But Giacomini stressed that the Texans' defense is filled with talented players, including Jadeveon Clowney and Vince Wilfork.
"It's not just him on that defense. The whole front seven is really good,'' Giacomini said. "That being said, he's a hell of a player.''
Bowles called Watt a "faster version'' of Randy White, the Cowboys' Super Bowl XII co-MVP and seven-time All-Pro whose nickname was "Manster'' (half-man, half-monster).
Told of Gailey's Hall of Fame comparison, Bowles said: "Howie had a motor as well. [Watt] may be a little more athletic than Howie, probably a little faster than Howie, but similar. You can go either way.''