For the future Hall of Famer, this represents his first game against Houston since departing after a decade with the Texans this past spring.
Watt knows full well that this is not the same iteration of the Texans that he dominated for from 2011-2020 — winning three NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards in the process.
“There’s obviously something more to (facing Houston). I don’t think that it’s what people may think it is because, I mean, you look at the roster and you look at the guys that are there, I mean it’s been so massively turned over that there’s only a handful of guys that are even there from last year that I played with,” J.J. Watt told reporters Thursday.
“So, it’s not like, I’m like, ‘Oh, I want to go and beat my old team’ or ‘Oh, I can’t wait to face this guy,’ because it’s not the same team. It’s not the same organization that I remember and that I was a part of.”
In 128 starts with the Texans, Watt compiled 101 sacks, 25 forced fumbles, 16 fumble recoveries and three defensive touchdowns. He won three NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards and the Walter Payton Man of the Year award while in Houston.
He found himself a good landing spot, at least in the short term. He joined former Texans teammate DeAndre Hopkins in Arizona, and the Cardinals are 6-0, the NFL’s lone unbeaten team. Hopkins will also face his old club for the first time Sunday.
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J.J. Watt talks Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans
“That’s why it hurts me to see where it is now, because I believe those fans deserve to be living those high times and to be experiencing those great moments and it hurts to know that they’re not and to know that they’re struggling,” Watt said. “So, I hope that they get back there at some point and I hope that they get to do that because I know firsthand it’s an unbelievable place to play when you’re rolling.”
Houston finds itself at 1-5 on the season and in the midst of a five-game losing streak. The team has lost its past three games by a combined margin of 71 points as Deshaun Watson remains sidelined.
The franchise quarterback requested a trade early this past off-season, only to ultimately face allegations of sexual assault and/or misconduct from north of 20 women. Recently, reports have indicated that he could be headed to the Miami Dolphins.
As for J.J. Watt, he’s still trying to find his way in the desert. The five-time All-Pro performer has recorded nine quarterback hits and one sack in six games this season. That came after the 32-year-old recorded a mere five sacks in 16 games with Houston in 2020.
(Field Level Media contributed to this report)