TEMPE, Arizona – On the eve of their biggest game of the season to date, the Arizona Cardinals lost one of their most important defensive players.
Defensive end JJ Watt will undergo what will likely be season-ending shoulder surgery, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Wednesday night. No date has been set for the procedure.
The Cardinals host the Green Bay Packers Thursday night in a showdown for early control of the NFC. Arizona is 7-0 and Green Bay is 6-1, producing perhaps the best Thursday night game of the Super Bowl era. It’s the highest combined winning percentage (.929) for a Thursday game in October or later during the Super Bowl era and the first time since the 1970 merger that two teams with at least 13 combined wins have met in the league. Week 8 or earlier.
Watt, in his first year with the Cardinals, injured his shoulder in the second quarter on Sunday, but still managed to play the rest of the game with the injury. He finished with a tackle for loss and a quarterback hit.
The undefeated Cardinals, who are ranked first in the NFC, ruled Watt against the Packers when the injury report was released early Wednesday. He did not participate in the Cardinals’ only practice of the week on Tuesday. It turns out that his condition was much worse.
Watt had recently found his rhythm in the Cardinals defense after needing around four games to keep his legs under him after missing the entire training ground due to a hamstring injury and acclimatizing to a new defense. .
Watt had 10 tackles, including five for a loss, and one sack this season. Combining with new defensive teammates, he managed to do what has been a staple of his career: reach the quarterback often. He finished with 10 quarterback hits in the first seven games, including nine in the last four.
But its impact runs deeper in a Cardinals defense that is best at third down and tied for the league lead in the fewest points allowed per game.
He has the third-highest pass-run win rate for defensive tackles, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. Watt beat his blocker in 2.5 seconds on 22.8% of plays when he lined up at defensive tackle, the third-best rate in the league.
Watt’s passing run has led to three sacks and two interceptions.
“I think J has played well the last three weeks,” Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said before Sunday’s win against the Houston Texans. “He missed camp, so the first two games of the season, he wasn’t in shape. From the Rams game, the San Fran game last week, to [Sunday], has played at a high level. It is so disturbing. He’s making plays. The sack numbers aren’t there, but in terms of the plays he’s made on third down, knocking down balls, making TFL on first and second down, he’s been a dominant player the last three weeks. “
And now another injury for the three-time defender of the year.
After starting 80 games in his first five seasons, Watt missed 13 games in 2016 due to two back surgeries, 11 games in 2017 due to a left tibia fracture, and eight games in 2019 due to a pectoral tear. If he misses the rest of this season, he will have missed 42 games in the six seasons since that 80-game streak, missing at least half of the games in four of those six seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. It will also be the fourth time in the past six seasons that he has suffered a season-ending injury.
Although Watt will be out, the Cardinals will win back pass rusher Chandler Jones, who missed the last two games due to COVID-19. It was deactivated from the reserve / COVID-19 list on Monday.
A victory would put the Cardinals 8-0 for the first time in franchise history.
Even with Watt not 100%, Arizona’s defense was dominant Sunday in a 31-5 win over the Texans.
“It was a game we should have won,” Cardinals linebacker Isaiah Simmons said. “And we did.”