HOUSTON (AP) — The Houston Texans must deal with a season-ending injury to J.J. Watt for the third time in four years.
But this time they’ll have to do it without Jadeveon Clowney after the top overall pick in 2014 was shipped to Seattle in an August trade.
Watt sustained an injury to a pectoral muscle on Sunday in a win over the Oakland Raiders that will keep him out for the rest of the season.
The injury comes after the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year missed the last 13 games of 2016 with a back injury which required surgery and played just five games in 2017 before breaking his leg. He played all 16 games last season and was a first-team All-Pro after finishing with 16 sacks and 18 tackles for losses.
Coach Bill O’Brien was asked who would be tasked with filling in for Watt as the team prepares to meet the Jaguars on Sunday in their first game in London.
“No one person is going to take the spot of a Hall of Fame player,” O’Brien said. “But at the end of the day these things happen, and we’ve got to move forward and do what we have to do to win games and that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to do the best we can to put the players in the right position based on what their skillsets are.”
Rookie Charles Omenihu could be an option to play in Watt’s place after appearing in six games this season. The fifth-round pick has two sacks and has forced two fumbles this season.
“He works hard,” O’Brien said. “I think for any rookie it’s about consistency from play to play, being as consistent as you possibly can … doing it down after down is very important and it’s hard to do that as a rookie.”
Houston could also look to versatile outside linebackers Barkevious Mingo and Jacob Martin to move to defensive end with Watt out again. Mingo and Martin were both acquired in the trade for Clowney but have mostly been used on special teams this season.
Though the Texans have a day before Tuesday afternoon’s NFL trade deadline, don’t expect them to make a move to try and get someone in the wake of Watt’s injury. O’Brien, who also serves as the team’s general manager after Brian Gaine was fired this summer, said the chances of them making a deal before the deadline are slim to none.
Quarterback Deshaun Watson continues to wow with his playmaking ability to help Houston’s offense improve each week. Watson threw three touchdown passes against Oakland for his fourth game this season with a least three passing touchdowns. He threw the last one on Sunday despite being kicked in the face on the play to give the Texans the victory. Watson has done a great job of spreading the ball around to receivers, tight ends and running backs to keep opposing defenses off-balance.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Though Watt helped Houston’s defense in many ways, his pass-rushing skills were his biggest contribution. But even with him, the Texans struggled to get to quarterbacks consistently and managed just 17 sacks this season, which is tied for 20th in the NFL. Watt ranked second on the team with four sacks behind Whitney Mercilus’ 5½. With Watt out, Mercilus and fellow outside linebacker Brennan Scarlett will need to do more to try and get to quarterbacks.
Receiver DeAndre Hopkins had 109 yards receiving on Sunday for his second straight game with at least 100 yards receiving and the third this season. His two big games come after he failed to reach 70 yards receiving in four of the previous five games. His performance on Sunday gave him 8,054 yards receiving to make the 27-year-old the third-youngest player in NFL history to reach 8,000 yards receiving behind Randy Moss and Larry Fitzgerald.
Cornerback Gareon Conley had an up-and-down performance in his first game since a trade from the Raiders last week. He got beat on a 46-yard touchdown reception by Tyrell Williams in the third quarter. But knocked the ball out of the hands of Williams on Oakland’s final drive to force a punt and secure Houston’s win on Sunday. The 24-year-old will need to play more consistently with veteran Johnathan Joseph out while recovering from hamstring and neck injuries.
CB Lonnie Johnson left in the first half with a concussion. … LT Laremy Tunsil injured his shoulder in the fourth quarter and did not return but O’Brien said he has a chance to play this week.
15 — The Texans limited the Raiders to just 15 first downs on Sunday, which is the fewest they’ve allowed this season.
The defense will need to come together to try and absorb the loss of Watt as the Texans play an important division game against Jacksonville. Generating a pass rush to try and slow down Gardner Minshew will be important after the rookie threw a season-high three touchdown passes in a win over the Jets on Sunday.
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