wants to be a dual threat. His head coach isn't so sure. (Bob Levey/Getty Images)
It’s a little-known fact that before current NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt transferred to the University of Wisconsin in time for the 2008 season, he played for Central Michigan as a tight end, and caught eight passes for 77 yards. Watt made his bones in college as a dynamic defensive lineman, and that certainly bore fruit in 2012, when he put up what may have been the most statistically impressive season by any defensive lineman in NFL history.
Still, Watt can’t forget what it feels like to catch passes, and he’s been bugging Houston Texans head coach Gary Kubiak about it. The recipient of one incomplete pass from Peyton Manning in the most recent Pro Bowl (see the breakdown below) has been working out on the JUGS machine, and he’s convinced that he could wreak just as much havoc on enemy defenses as he does when he’s dealing with opposing quarterbacks.
“It’s just about being an athlete,” Watt said on Tuesday about those receiver reps. “I have fun, catching balls is fun, just doing whatever you can to be an athlete, working on hand-eye coordination, and the little things. It never hurts to be able to catch a football.”
Clearly, though, this is a step forward in Watt’s campaign to get in on the other side of the ball, right?
“I’ve been lobbying since Day 1," Watt said. "It hasn’t worked yet, so I don’t think it’s going to work anytime soon, but it’s his team … We always joke about it. It’s never anything really serious. Who knows? Maybe one day.”
Kubiak did talk about a hypothetical “Wisconsin” package in which Watt and tight ends Garrett Graham and Owen Daniels (all Wisconsin alums, of course) could hit the field in a goal-line package, but “I don’t know what part of the Wisconsin package he would play,” the coach remarked about Watt.
Actually, the Texans have three tight ends from Wisconsin -- Jake Byrne is the other one on the current roster -- so Kubiak could go hog-wild with this if he so chose.
In the end, Kubiak threw cold water on the Watt idea, especially after seeing him line up wide in the Pro Bowl -- “No, I didn’t like that personally. When I saw he was going to line up out there, that scared me a little bit. We’ll let him keep getting after the quarterback and maybe we’ll find him a play or two of offense down the road.”
That’s probably for the best, job-security-wise. One can only imagine the calls for Kubiak’s head if Watt were injured while getting jacked up by a linebacker on a red zone drag route.
Still, it’s an intriguing idea, and Kubiak admitted that when it comes to Watt’s allegedly good hands, “He probably can do anything he wants to do.”