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Vance Joseph: Quality over quantity when it comes to J.J. Watt’s snaps

FILE - In this Dec. 27, 2020, file photo, Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt walks on the field before an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith, File)

J.J. Watt has made a career out of being the guy with the biggest motor.

But even high-motor athletes need to get pulled back from time to time. Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph explained the importance of splitting up snaps along the line on The Big Red Rage on Thursday.

“Hopefully we can have a nice rotation with Zach Allen, Rashard Lawrence and Leki Fotu. We’ve got a bunch of good young players who need the reps,” Joseph said. “I think having those young players behind him and convincing J.J. that quality is going to be better for us than quantity will be impactful for the defense.”

Allen heads into his third year with the Cardinals as Fotu and Lawrence will both embark on their second seasons. Allen had two sacks in 2020, while Fotu recorded six tackles and a sack. Lawrence missed seven games last season, making seven tackles.

While pulling back Watt, a player who’s made a career out of terrorizing quarterbacks, won’t be easy, Joseph is confident that getting other guys playing opportunities will benefit the defense moving forward.

“It’s going to be a chore to pull J.J. back,” Joseph said. “We’re going to have a plan for him to understand to give some of those snaps to Zach.”

“If we can get him on the field on critical downs — the third downs especially, the second and longs, the firsts of the series — those are going to help him stay healthy and be fresh for later in the season,” Joseph added. “J.J. and I were laughing about Reggie White. White signed with Green Bay when he was 31 years old and he had 60-plus sacks. This isn’t different, it’s happened before.”

There’s no denying the work Watt puts into his craft, playing an impressive 1,013 snaps in 2020. And even though Joseph doesn’t envision Watt playing as much as he did last year, the DC knows the lineman will be ready to answer the call at any given time.

“To play over 1,000 snaps at his age that shows his work ethic and how he trains,” Joseph said. “He trains like an animal, so he’s going to be in great shape.”

Overall, Joseph, who coached defensive backs at Houston for three seasons during Watt’s time with the Texans, was excited about bringing in lineman, knowing full well that he’ll be an asset on and off the field.

“That’s a great player and a great person,” Joseph said. “As a recruiter, you don’t want to bring anyone into your program that you’re going to be embarrassed about. I know J.J. and he’s going to be a player for us.”


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