With one injury to the Houston Texans J.J. Watt, the defense is going to have to get creative on how they are going to generate pressure against opposing offenses. Defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel will have to mix and match trying to find the right combination of players in the front seven with the absence of Watt.
Watt led the league with 20 quarterback hits through eight weeks of the season and accounted for 43.5% of the defenses quarterback hits. Now the Texans will have to turn to others outside of team sack leader Whitney Mercilus.
Mercilus knows his fellow defenders are more than welcoming of the challenge for the final stretch of the season.
"The thing is, I think every guy in this locker room has just like a dog mentality," Mercilus explained. "Which is, it doesn't matter what happens whoever gets injured. The next guy is ready to step up, make a play, and no matter how dire the situation might be."
The defense will have to depend on the likes of interior defensive lineman D.J. Reader, Angelo Blackson, and Carlos Watkins to push the pocket. More importantly, they will need edge players in Brennan Scarlett, Charles Omenihu, Jacob Martin, and the seldom-used Barkevious Mingo to help with the pass rush.
Head coach Bill O'Brien has been in these situations before with the absence of Watt due to injury. O'Brien knows it will be all hands on deck for the defensive front for the Texans.
"I think there's a lot of things you can do," O'Brien said of the defense without Watt's presence. "Last year was last year, but I think the versatility of D.J. Reader helps. I think there's a lot of things you can do, though. You've got guys like (Barkevious) Mingo, and (Jacob) Martin, Charles Omenihu, that are versatile players."
Watt's presence will not be replaced, and O'Brien knows that is the case once again.
"No one person is going to take the spot of a Hall of Fame player," O'Brien said of Watt. "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. 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 skill sets are and go try to win games."
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