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Browns have (No.) 99 problems with JJ Watt

November 14, 2014

BEREA, Ohio (AP) — JJ Watt seems to be everywhere in the U.S. Turn on the tube, and there he is dancing on a TV commercial. Check out the supermarket’s magazine display, and there’s Houston’s dynamic No. 99 on the covers of two national sports magazines — this week.

Unstoppable on the gridiron, Watt can hardly be controlled off it. He’s all over the place.

On Sunday, the Cleveland Browns need to keep him out their backfield and off their quarterback.

If there’s one NFL player who can keep a coaching staff awake at night it’s Watt, the Texans’ 6-foot-5, 290-pound (1.96-meter, 132-kilogram) wrecking ball who never stops moving. In nine games this season, Watt has amassed a career’s worth of stats for an ordinary player.

“He’s a beast,” Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer says. “Everything said about him is true. I hope we can contain him.”

Watt has an unmatched 2014 resume. He’s recorded 8 1/2 sacks, been credited with swatting seven passes, and made 11 tackles for a loss. The $100 million man — he signed a six-year contract extension in September — leads the league with 29 quarterback hits and he’s scored three touchdowns, returning an interception 80 yards, rumbling 45 yards from a fumble, and catching a 1-yard touchdown pass.

Watt is the first defensive lineman to score three touchdowns since 1985, when William “The Refrigerator” Perry did it for the Chicago Bears.

Perry was a novelty act.

There’s nothing gimmicky about Watt.

“I wouldn’t say it’s hyperbole when you say he’s the best defensive player in the NFL because I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody who plays like he does, as hard as he does,” Browns Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas said. “I’ve never seen anybody as disruptive as he is. He’s unpredictable.”

Just when the AFC North-leading Browns found some cohesion in their running game, gaining 170 yards rushing last week in Cincinnati, they’ll have to try and move the ball against Watt and Houston’s defense. The Texans shift Watt along the line of scrimmage, playing him inside to use his strength and outside to maximize his speed.

When he walks to the line to make his pre-snap read, Hoyer will find Watt.

“It’s something I always do,” he said. “I check the front. I check the linebackers. I check the coverage, but it’s more for our offensive line and running backs to know where he is. He’s a great player, but he also has great players around him.”

Players don’t come any tougher than Watt, in his fourth season. He’s earned the universal respect of his peers and Texans coach Bill O’Brien said Watt’s work ethic is unmatched.

“He’s here early. He stays late,” O’Brien says. “He practices very, very hard. He’s a great teammate. He’s a great leader on our team.”

Browns coach Mike Pettine had high praise for Watt, the AP’s defensive player of the year in 2012 and front-runner to win the award again.

“It’s rare that somebody has it all, and really you look for a weakness and it’s hard to find one,” Pettine said. “He plays so hard that sometimes you see they either substitute for him or he burns himself out. To me, that’s a compliment that he plays as hard as he does.”

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