SAN FRANCISCO -- Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt beat out St. Louis Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald and Carolina Panthers stars Luke Kuechly and Josh Norman to take home the 2015 Defensive Player of the Year award at Saturday's NFL Honors ceremony.
"I was a 2-star recruit coming out and now I have three (Defensive Player of the Year) awards," Watt said after accepting the award. "So ... screw all of you guys for doubting me."
We are running out of superlatives to describe the dominant, game-wrecking defensive force of his generation. Watt led all defensive linemen in sacks (17.5), QB hits (50), tackles for loss (29) and passes defensed (8), to go with an astounding 21.5 run stuffs (plays of no gain or negative yardage).
Since the sack became an official statistic in 1982, Watt and Reggie White are the only players with at least 17.0 sacks in three different seasons. His 101 QB hits over the past two seasons are more than any other player has accrued over a three-year span since the statistic was first tracked in 2006.
Although Donald, the Panthers duo and the Cardinals defensive back tandem of Tyrann Mathieu and Patrick Peterson all merited serious consideration, Watt was rewarded for pulling the Texans out of an early 2-5 tailspin and leading them to the AFC South title. From Week 8 through the end of the season, Houston led the NFL in every major defensive category, holding five of nine opponents to exactly six points.
What separates Watt from other superstars is that he remains the most disruptive defender in the game while offenses devote more and more resources to stopping him. We witnessed a dire tactic in Week 12, when the Saints shifted stud left tackle Terron Armstead to the right side of the line to assist beleaguered right tackle Zach Strief. Watt still split the two tackles for one of his two sacks on Drew Brees.
It's easy to illustrate Watt's supremacy in the prime of his career. Back in 2013, Wade Phillips touted Watt's performance as the best he had ever seen by a defensive lineman. Two years later, Watt authored the rare MVP-caliber campaign by a defensive player.
With a third Defensive Player of the Year award in four years, Watt has joined Taylor and White in the NFL's pantheon of defensive legends.