There is really no argument that J.J. Watt is one of the best defensive players in the NFL and there are arguments that he might be one of the best players – offense or defense – in the entire league. However, Watt has something to prove this year on the field. After winning the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2012, 2014, and 2015 and being a finalist for the actual NFL MVP award in 2014. Watt missed the entire 2016 NFL season due to back surgery for a herniated disc.

J.J. Watt appreciates the game

As J.J. Watt prepares to return to the field in 2017, he told ESPN that he has a new appreciation of the game of football and proper preparation to play this season.

Before this year, Watt was known as a workout warrior, owning a cabin in the woods where he would work out and prepare all year long. However, with the herniated disc and a lost season due to surgery, Watt said that he needs to be smarter when it comes to prolonging his NFL career.

J.J. Watt used to go 100 percent all the time and his body finally caught up with him. In the interview, J.J. said that he needs to be there to win games from September through December. He said that he won’t win games in training camp, meaning that hurting himself when there is no game on the line hurts the team and keeps him from doing what he loves. Watt said that the Houston Texans coaching staff have a good plan for him this offseason and he will follow their plan.

The 2017 Texans defense

Even without J.J. Watt in 2017, the Houston Texans still finished with the No. 1 ranked defense in the entire NFL. They ranked No. 2 against the pass and No. 12 against the run – the latter a number that should improve with Watt back on the field. Texans head coach Bill O’Brien said that the team is managing Watt and getting him ready for their Week 1 season opener and team owner Bob McNair said that they will let him work his way back in.

The best news for Houston Texans fans is that Jadeveon Clowney finally showed the promise that the Houston Texans saw in him when they made him a first overall draft pick three years ago. With J.J. Watt returning, Clowney turning into a star, and big names like Brian Cushing, Benardrick McKinney, and Whitney Mercilus back, there is no reason to believe that Houston won’t be even better than their No.

1 ranked defense from last season.

One thing that Houston Texans won’t see is J.J. Watt on the field in the preseason. With his importance to the Texans, it is better to just wait and see him when he hits the field in Week 1 for the Texans opening game with the Jacksonville Jaguars.