With 15 days to go until the start of training camp for the Pittsburgh Steelers, we continue our 30 predictions in 30 days series with another bold claim for 2019.
Alternating daily between myself and BTSC Editor Jeff Hartman, we will offer our predictions for the upcoming season. Some will be team oriented, while others will be specific to individual players. Posing an argument for and against our predictions, we invite you to weigh in on the debate as well.
Following on from Jeff’s claim that the Steelers will improve on their 2018 AFC North record in 2019, I turn my attention toward the youngest member of the Watt family in the NFL.
Prediction: T.J. Watt will finish the season with more sacks than brother J.J. Watt in 2019.
Why it will happen: Despite 20 sacks in his first two seasons in the NFL, it would be fair to say that T.J. Watt has barely begun to scratch the surface of his potential. Having perhaps relied more on his raw athletic ability than anything else since being selected by the Steelers with the 30th overall pick of the 2017 draft, the youngest of the Watt siblings is still very much a work in progress.
But while eldest brother J.J. has rightfully worn the crown as the most accomplished Watt brother in the NFL up until now, that could all be set to change in 2019 when T.J. overtakes him with a higher sack total.
The two were neck and neck in 2018 through Week 11 with 10 sacks a piece until J.J. upped his pace over the final six weeks of the season. Recording twice as many sacks as his brother in that period. J.J. would finish the year with 16, while T.J. would end with 13.
As T.J. continues to add to his repertoire of pass rushing moves and becomes more comfortable playing on the left, there is every reason to be confident that he could improve on his totals heading into year three. Meanwhile, his eldest brother will continue to see multiple double teams as offensive coordinators game plan with him specifically in mind.
Lining up next to a new weapon on defense in Devin Bush could also free up T.J. to rush more, with the rookie tasked with coverage instead. And with half of his career sacks coming in games against AFC North opponents, T.J. will face a number of teams he has had notable success against in the past once again.
With the possible exception of the Indianapolis Colts, Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots, the Steelers will avoid most of the more highly rated offensive lines this year. The Texans will take on the Colts twice, the New Orleans Saints, Kansas City Chiefs, Patriots and Denver Broncos under former Pittsburgh offensive line coach Mike Munchak. The group the Tennessee Titans have assembled should not be underestimated either.
T.J. has already surpassed his brother for tackles in a single season with 68 combined stops in 2018 as against 61 for J.J.. In 2019, he will become the family’s sack champion.
Why it won’t happen: J.J. Watt is a three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year for a reason - his ability to be able to record an absurd number of sacks and disrupt an entire offense. In his prime, J.J. was arguably the most dominating force in the NFL.
Injuries in 2016 and 2017 saw other names overtake him in the rankings, but Watt was finally able to play his first full season in three years in 2018. Not counting his rookie season, his total of 16 sacks was his second lowest ever through 16 games. Should he remain fully healthy in 2019, it would not be a surprise to see his numbers increase.
For T.J. to eclipse his brother, he will need to show a level of consistency that has been one of the hallmarks of J.J’s career, and a trait that has eluded him so far. If he struggles with that again this season, he will not come close to matching his older brother’s numbers.
What are your thoughts on this prediction? Do you think it will happen? Or are we crazy? Let us know by voting in the poll, and letting your voice be heard in the comment section below!
Will T.J. Watt finish the season with more sacks than brother J.J. Watt in 2019?
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