J.J. Watt has hinted that he'll be playing in his final NFL games over the next two weeks, capping off a career that is deserving of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. For the past 12 years, Watt has been terrorizing quarterbacks and racking up his sack totals as a result (currently has 111.5 in his career) -- establishing himself as one of the greatest pass rushers ever.
Watt has won three Associated Press NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards, tied with Lawrence Taylor and Aaron Donald for the most in NFL history. He's earned five first-team All-Pro selections while leading the NFL in sacks twice (2012, 2015), tackles for loss three times (2012, 2014, 2015) and quarterback hits four times (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015). The four-year stretch Watt had from 2012 through 2015 is one of the best for any pass rusher in NFL history -- and will get him enshrined in Canton one day.
With Watt set to walk away from the game, this week's "By the Numbers" takes a look at Watt's Hall of Fame career and all of his accomplishments over the past 12 years.
Most sacks in NFL since 2011 (Watt's rookie year)
- Von Miller -- 123.5 (161 games)
- Cameron Jordan -- 112.5 (190 games)
- Chandler Jones -- 112.0 (154 games)
- J.J. Watt -- 111.5 (149 games)
- Juston Houston -- 111.0 (161 games)
Most QB hits in NFL since 2011 (Watt's rookie year)
- J.J. Watt -- 313 (149 games)
- Carlos Dunlap -- 248 (183 games)
- Von Miller -- 245 (161 games)
- Aaron Donald -- 237 (138 games)
- Cam Jordan -- 215 (190 games)
Most tackles for loss in NFL since 2011 (Watt's rookie year)
- J.J. Watt -- 191 (149 games)
- Von Miller -- 164 (161 games)
- Aaron Donald -- 160 (138 games)
- Cameron Jordan -- 149 (190 games)
- Calais Campbell -- 142 (179 games)
Incredible that Watt was able to miss so much time in the late 2010s due to injuries and still be the only player to have 175 tackles for loss and 300 quarterback hits since the start of the 2011 season. Watt played in just 55 of a possible 97 games from 2016 through 2021 and still managed to earn first-team All-Pro honors in 2018 when he led the league in forced fumbles (seven) while finishing with 16 sacks -- this after playing just eight games over the previous two seasons and racking up just 1.5 sacks.
To fully understand Watt's dominance, take a look at his numbers from the 2012 through 2015 seasons:
Most sacks in NFL (2012-2015)
- J.J. Watt (Texans) -- 69
- Justin Houston (Chiefs) -- 50.5
- Von Miller (Broncos) -- 48.5
- Robert Quinn (Rams) -- 45.0
- Elvis Dumervil (Broncos, Ravens) - 43.5
Most tackles for loss in NFL (2012-2015)
- J.J. Watt (Texans) -- 119
- Lavante David (Buccaneers) -- 68
- Ndamukong Suh (Lions) -- 64
- Von MIller (Broncos) -- 62
- Michael Bennett (Buccaneers, Seahawks) -- 59
Most QB hits in NFL (2012-2015)
- J.J. Watt (Texans) -- 190
- Carlos Dunlap (Bengals) -- 100
- Von Miller (Broncos) -- 94
- Michael Bennett (Buccaneers, Seahawks) -- 93
- Ndamukong Suh (Lions) -- 92
Watt's 2012 to 2015 seasons were the stuff of legend, as he led the NFL in sacks (69), tackles for loss (119) and quarterback hits (190). Justin Houston had the next closest sack total to Watt (50.5), while Lavonte David was the next closest in tackles for loss (68) and Carlos Dunlap was the next closest in quarterback hits (100). Watt led the NFL in sacks twice, tackles for loss three times and quarterback hits in all four seasons.
Of the NFL single-season leaders in quarterback hits, Watt has the top-four marks in NFL history (quarterback hits were first tracked in 2006). He's the only player to have 50 quarterback hits in a season -- and Watt has accomplished the feat twice. Watt is the only player in NFL history to have multiple seasons of 20-plus sacks (2012, 2014). Watt and Reggie White are the only players in NFL history to post three or more seasons with at least 17.5 sacks (2012, 2014, 2015).
From 2012 to 2015, Watt captured three Associated Press NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards, four first-team All-Pro honors, four Pro Bowls and runner-up for league MVP (Aaron Rodgers won the award in 2014). In that 2014 season, Watt caught three touchdown passes, had an interception return for a touchdown and a fumble recovery for a touchdown -- the only player ever to accomplish this in a season. Watt and Deion Sanders are the only players in the Super Bowl era to catch three touchdown passes, have an interception return for a touchdown and a fumble recovery for a touchdown in a career.
Another reason Watt will make the Hall of Fame is his level of play as a pass rusher in his first five seasons compared to the all-time greats. Here's how Watt stacks up:
Most sacks in first 5 seasons (NFL history)
- Reggie White (Eagles) -- 81.0 (1985-1989)
- J.J. Watt (Texans) -- 74.5 (2011-2015)
- T.J. Watt (Steelers) -- 72.5 (2017-2021)
- Derrick Thomas (Chiefs) -- 66.0 (1989-1993)
- DeMarcus Ware (Cowboys) -- 64.5 (2005-2009)
Most sacks in first 80 games (NFL history)
- Reggie White (Eagles) -- 88.0 (1985-1990)
- J.J. Watt (Texans) -- 74.5 (2011-2015)
- T.J. Watt (Steelers) -- 73.5 (2017-2022)
- Myles Garrett (Browns) -- 70.5 (2018-2022)
- Von Miller (Broncos) -- 68.5 (2011-2016)
Most QB hits in first 5 seasons (NFL history)
- J.J. Watt (Texans) -- 209 (2011-2015)
- T.J. Watt (Steelers) -- 150 (2017-2021)
- Aaron Donald (Rams) -- 149 (2014-2018)
- Von Miller (Broncos) -- 123 (2011-2015)
- Myles Garrett (Browns) -- 118 (2018-2022)
*QB hits were first tracked in 2006
Watt is fifth in NFL history in sacks per game (.753), trailing only T.J. Watt (.905), Reggie White (.853), DeMarcus Ware (.778) and Von Miller (.767) (minimum 75 games played). He's just the fourth player in NFL history to record at least 100 career sacks in his first 120 games. (Reggie White, Bruce Smith, and DeMarcus Ware are the others.)
Watt's accolades go beyond the football field, as he was named the NFL's Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2017. He joins Jason Taylor and Joe Greene as the only players to win the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year and Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year.
Watt is eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2028. If Andre Johnson isn't inducted before then, he'll be the first Texans player in the Hall of Fame.