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The Arizona Cardinals are headed to the playoffs and star defensive linemen J.J. Watt will now officially join them.
Of course he will.
No sane person truly believed, with the postseason on the horizon, that Watt would miss an opportunity to be there ready to battle alongside his Cardinal teammates.
Watt, who was the team’s marquee offseason addition, saw his promising first year with the Cardinals suddenly halted in late-October thanks to a slew of injuries that included a torn labrum, bicep and rotator cuff. According to medical experts, the estimated recovery time for the average human was roughly 4-6 months.
Now is a good time to remind everyone that Watt is no average human.
Rumbles began in November that Watt was attempting a historic recovery, one of which he had previously attempted during the 2019 season with the Houston Texans. The future Hall-of-Famer has been actively working with his fellow Cardinal defensive linemen in preparation for his return, which culminated earlier this week following the results of an encouraging MRI.
While Watt has a renewed window of roughly 21 days to practice before potentially being added to the 53-man roster, sources say #99 plans to return next weekend for the team’s first-round playoff matchup.
The impact of Watt’s return to this Arizona Cardinals team cannot be overstated. Prior to his injury, the Redbirds were undefeated at 7-0 with Watt in the starting lineup. Standout performances against the Cleveland Browns and Houston Texans proved that Watt had quickly mastered defensive coordinator Vance Joseph’s system at the 5-technique. His PFF grade of 79 still leads all current Cardinal defensive linemen, while also sporting a near dominate pass rushing grade of 83.1.
In fact, it wasn’t until Watt’s injury that the Cardinal defense suddenly began to show cracks in the foundation beginning first with their run defense.
That all changes with Watt’s reinsertion back into the starting lineup.
The emotional impact Watt provides to this team, both on and off the field, has been invaluable to the Cardinals success in 2021. It was the primary reason that GM Steve Keim and Team President and Owner Michael Bidwill heavily recruited the 32-year-old to the desert. As a result, Watt has made this otherwise young and inexperienced Cardinal team true believers that they could achieve greatness at the highest level.
While expectations should be tempered, a Watt return to the field is anything but a gimmick. While a pitch count of sorts should be expected, good luck getting the big man off the field in critical playoff situations. With the Cardinal defensive line currently one of the weakest position units on the team, I’ll happily take my chances with a 75% Watt when a path to the Super Bowl is on the line.
All day, everyday.
Now Watt is reunited with his pal and pass rushing running-mate Chandler Jones, who were last seen together abusing the San Fransisco 49er offensive line while terrorizing young Trey Lance in the process.
Perhaps a second-helping of destruction is just on the horizon?
If so, now would be an ideal time to remind the rest of the NFL of an important lesson that too many have forgotten.