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Arizona Cardinals look to slow Houston Texans’ duo of J.J. Watt and Antonio Smith

TEMPE, Ariz. — You can’t really miss J.J. Watt.

At 6-foot-5 and 289 pounds, the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year is a force to be reckoned with, one who can get after quarterbacks, slow down a run game and bat down pass after pass after pass.

“That’s a good question,” Watt answered with a chuckle when asked how he would go about defending himself if he were an offensive lineman. “I’d use two guys.”

Last season, Watt posted 81 total tackles with 20.5 sacks. He also forced four fumbles and tallied 16 passes defensed.

The third-year pro out of Wisconsin has “only” 5.5 sacks and four passes defensed this season, but there is no doubt the Arizona Cardinals, who are about to face off with Watt and the Houston Texans, are well aware of the challenge awaiting them.

“He’s the best of the best; he’s an elite, elite player,” Cardinals right tackle Eric Winston said of Watt. “I don’t think it was an overstatement when Wade, in the beginning of the season, said he’s going to be a future Hall-of-Famer if he keeps it up. I think there’s no doubt about it.

“No one’s blocked him yet; hopefully I can get in his way a few times.”

The Cardinals will certainly look to account for Watt, whose presence alone can change how an offense operates. Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer, though, said the team can’t allow the Pro Bowler to change what he does.

“You can’t adjust your arm angle when you’re throwing, you can’t adjust balls,” he said. “Odds are, once in a while he’s going to get his hands on one, but you can’t go outside your game plan and you can’t go outside of your fundamentals and the things you’re taught, because then other bad things could happen.

“He’s very good at what he does, and odds are he’s done it every game, and it will happen. You just have to reload and go to the next play.”

Slowing down Watt, along with fellow defensive end and former Cardinal Antonio Smith, will be paramount for the Cardinals if they hope to win their second consecutive game.

“You know, Antonio doesn’t probably get the credit he deserves,” said Winston, who spent six seasons with the Texans. “He’s had a heck of a career there and when I was there, I think he was a heck of a pass rusher.

“Even now, I think with how good Watt’s been, people forget how good he is.”

The 32-year-old Smith played in Arizona from 2004-2008, and has 41 career sacks.

The Texans come into the game with the top-ranked defense in football in terms of yardage, and are allowing a paltry 158 passing yards per game. They are tied for 21st in the NFL with 20 sacks and have picked off a league-worst three passes, though, meaning either they allow such little yardage because teams don’t have to throw on them much, or they’re doing something well that doesn’t exactly show up in the box score.

As far as the Cardinals are concerned, it’s the latter option.

“This is, defensively, a phenomenal football team,” Palmer said. “To be No. 1 in the league in total defense and be 2-6, they’re playing very good defensively.”

And it all starts up front, with a pair of defensive ends who have been known to make offenses miserable.

“It’s an all-day chore,” Arians said of blocking Watt. “He’s going to flip sides, right and left, he’s going to be over our tackles, and he’s also going to be over both guards.

“Everybody’s going to get a piece of him, along with Antonio, who I think is a great player.”