- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 7, 2014

HOUSTON — The white gloves on the massive hands of J.J. Watt suggest the tenderness of a butler. Watt, however, is a spike-haired menace, prepared for but not stopped.

Before leaving Ashburn, the Redskins knew what was looming from the Houston Texans defensive lineman. He had made news earlier in the week when Houston provided him with a $100 million contract, which made him the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history after consecutive first-team All-Pro seasons.

The Redskins watched film, touted his strength and length, drew arrows on dry-erase boards with directions on how to stop the Wisconsin native and Houston icon.

Next to none of it worked.

“We all knew who J.J. Watt was and we knew he was going to be something to deal with,” left tackle Trent Williams said. “He’s really the one that hurt us. We knew that was going to happen. There’s very little you can do to shut him out.”

Watt ended a dominant day against the Redskins waving a finger — a single-digit chiding for trying to pass over him — after he knocked down Robert Griffin III’s third-down pass with 1:40 remaining in the game. Coming off the left side against right tackle Tyler Polumbus, Watt used simplicity to gain the result. Two arms into Polumbus’ chest drove him back toward Griffin. Once within two yards, Griffin loaded to throw. Both of Watts’ arms went up, the ball went down, he smiled.

Despite losing rookie defensive end and No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney because of a first-half knee injury, Watt still dominated. His final statistical line was swollen: a sack, two tackles for loss, five quarterback hits, a pass defensed, a blocked extra point and a fumble recovery. No word on how long he’ll remain in Griffin’s bad dreams.

“I mean, the guy had every stat you could get,” Redskins linebacker Adam Hayward said. “I’m like, ‘This guy is playing a video game right now.’ He is definitely a great player, and there’s a reason that he’s loved here and they paid him like they did because he’s definitely earned it.”

Watt prowled up and down the line of scrimmage before the Redskins’ first possession. While the television-viewing audience was staring at commercials, Watt was just short of being an incensed bull scraping a hoof across the ground.

He’s become Houston’s everything. When the defense was on the field, the home crowd bellowed. When the offense took the field, the second-largest crowd in NRG Stadium history shifted to hopeful applause. The fans here are turning to him to get the Texans out of a rut.

The Redskins went through an inescapable spiral during the second half of last season when they lost eight consecutive games. Watt’s year was worse. Week 4 of last season, the eventual Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks arrived in Texas. There was conjecture that week Houston and Seattle could meet again in the Super Bowl. The Seahawks made it. The Texans, who were 2-1 at the time, would not win again.

Watt, 25, evaded a question last week about last year’s doldrums. Sunday’s 17-6 win against the Redskins ended more than a year of losing for the Texans. It was their first victory in 357 days, for those counting.

“I feel like we play a big game every week,” Watt said.

Watt’s six-year extension signed last week guarantees him $51.876 million. Last season, he lamented his life being reduced to three primary places: home, the stadium and NX Level training facility in Waukesha, Wisconsin, about a 20-minute drive west of Milwaukee, where he began going in high school.

There, Watt is known for his manic workout habits as well as an occasional impersonation of characters from the 1990s comedy show, “In Living Color.” He also hides out from the public.

The new contract or ongoing scurrilous attack on the rest of the league will do nothing to decrease his celebrity.

“The goal is always to be great,” Watt said. “I don’t want to be that guy that people say that got money and shut down. I want to work hard every day.”

At one point Sunday, Watt’s helmet was ripped off while he was involved in a tackle. Watt scooped up his wayward helmet, sneering and shaking his head. The skull protection almost seems extraneous for someone who appears so invincible.

All the talent allows his first-year head coach, Bill O’Brien, an uncomplicated assessment of Watt.

“Watt is obviously a hell of a football player, there’s no other way to put it,” O’Brien said.

The Redskins learned that in person Sunday.

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