Can JJ Watt win MVP as a defensive player?

Frank Passalacqua, Opinion Editor

When you think of the award Most Valuable Player, odds are that the MVP is going to someone who is the face of the NFL.

Ever since the MVP award was first given out in the NFL in 1957, there have only been three players to win that was not either a quarterback or a running back. Hall of Famer player Alan Page, a defensive tackle won it in 1971, Mark Mosely in 1982 won it as a placekicker, and Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor in 1986 was the last defensive player to win the award as a linebacker.

This year, there have been a few standout players throughout the first quarter of the season. Andrew Luck, Philip Rivers, DeMarco Murray are all on pace to have record breaking seasons, and then there is one other guy, defensive end for the Houston Texans, J.J. Watt.

Ever since Watt was drafted four years ago out of Wisconsin, he was been one of the premier defensive players in the NFL. His 6’5″ frame along with the 289 pounds of an offensive lines’ nightmare has been not only the face of the Houston Texans, but the NFL.

This offseason, Watt was given a contract extension worth $100 million dollars, marking the most money given to defensive player in NFL history. Usually when players receive a contract worth this much, their performance significantly decreases. However, Watt is already showing his worth, and I am sure the Texans are not regretting the price for his extension.

Throughout the first four games of the season, Watt has accumulated 2.0 sacks, 15 combined tackles, three passes deflected, a forced fumble, and an interception.

On paper, that may not seem like anything noteworthy, but where Watt shows his elite presence on the field is in how he plays and obtains those numbers. His interception in week 4 was the first of his career and it ended in an 80-yard touchdown return, emerging him as one of the league’s best players. Also, let us not forget that he lined up as a tight end and caught a touchdown against Oakland, making him only one of two defensive players to score on offense and defense ever in the NFL.

Watt may only have 2.0 sacks and 15 tackles, but stats do not show how many times he has rushed or hit the quarterback. Stats do not show how many times he rushed the quarterback to throw an interception, an incomplete pass, or to end a drive to set up his team to win the game. Watt’s presence on the field is arguably more dominant than any other defensive player in the NFL, which is why his name is already in the running for league MVP.

Last season, Watt finished with 10.5 sacks, which was tied for 16th in the NFL. Honors of Defensive Player of the Year in 2012 was taken by Watt in only his second season, and last year’s award was claimed by Carolina Panthers’ linebacker Luke Kuechly.

With the way the first four games have shaped up, will this be the year that Watt claims NFL MVP? Let us look at the other contenders.

Indianapolis Colts’ quarterback Andrew Luck is in only his third season and is already in the talking for being a top-tier NFL quarterback. With 1,305 yards, a 13:4 touchdown to interception ratio and a 108.0 QB rating, Luck is putting up numbers that are on par to lead the NFL, and even break records set by Peyton Manning in past seasons.

Philip Rivers turned the San Diego Chargers’ franchise around since he took over as quarterback and last year proved his team was one to compete for the Super Bowl. Currently at 3-1, Rivers has thrown for 1,155 yards for a league best nine touchdown to one ratio with a 114.5 QB rating thus far.

If Rivers can keep this up, people will be seeing the Chargers go farther than just the AFC Championship game.

Lastly, DeMarco Murray of the Dallas Cowboys is leading the NFL in rushing with 534 yards and a league best five touchdowns. The record for most yards in a single season has not been broken since 1984 when Eric Dickerson ended the season with 2,105 yards. Adrian Peterson came close in 2012 with 2,097 yards, but came up shy in his final game.

If Murray keeps up his performance and stays with his current pace, the record will be broken and Murray will have rushed for 2,136 yards.

The odds of this actually happening are extremely slim, but it is possible.As it stands, those are currently the only players in Watt’s way. If Murray does break the record for all-time rushing yards in a season, then the MVP award deservedly goes to him.

However, if that does not happen and Watt continues to prove his NFL dominance on the defensive side of the ball, then we very well may be witnessing one of the best defensive players to ever live.