It’s no secret or great debate when it comes to the extra element the Arizona Cardinals could be adding this postseason.
Defensive end J.J. Watt practiced on Thursday for the first time since sustaining a laundry list of injuries to his shoulder in late October and is doing his best to potentially play in Monday’s Wild Card matchup against the Los Angeles Rams.
The latest reporting as of Friday is that Watt is “trending toward playing,” per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
If Watt suits up, it’s a game-changer. NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks expanded on that, listing Watt as his X-factor for the Cardinals when covering every playoff team.
Watt’s past his prime and hasn’t played since Week 7 due to shoulder surgery, but the three-time Defensive Player of the Year returned to practice this week and could be ready to rock on Monday night. Watt’s return would add more explosiveness to a potent pass rush that creates havoc and chaos, fueling defensive coordinator Vance Joseph’s scheme. If the energetic playmaking specialist is able to give the Cardinals 20-plus snaps on obvious passing downs, Joseph’s blitz packages could devastate opponents in the postseason tournament.
Brooks details the boost Watt would have to the Cardinals’ pass rush, one that is sorely needed. Watt, though, also helps in the run game. He has shown a great ability in his age-32 season to still be enough of a nuisance at the first level, containing his gaps against offensive linemen. He has done so to a point of wrapping up ball carriers behind the line of scrimmage on occassion.
Watt has 16 tackles on the season and five of them have been tackles for loss.
It is an opposing offense Watt would be particularly useful against. Getting pressure on the Rams’ Matthew Stafford has to be either at the top of the Cardinals’ list of priorities or near it, as Stafford has been turnover prone since the halfway point of the year. Los Angeles also recently got back Cam Akers, the second-year running back who only played one game this year after an impressive rookie season.
The Cardinals take on the Rams in an NFC Wild Card round matchup in Los Angeles at 6:15 p.m. Tune to 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station for all the action.