Editor’s note: This is the final part in a series that spotlights three Raiders-Texans matchups to watch Sunday, 10 a.m., at the Reliant Stadium
[MATCHUP NO. 3: Lamarr Houston vs. Case Keenum]
[MATCHUP NO. 2: Tracy Porter vs. Andre Johnson]
Raiders RT Tony Pashos vs. Texans DE J.J. Watt
Tale of the tape:
Pashos (79): 6-foot-6, 325 pounds, 10th season, Illinois
Watt (99): 6-foot-5, 289 pounds, third season, Wisconsin
J.J. Watt is a disruptive force, a game-changer who can harass opposing quarterbacks. That’s on an average day.
The Houston Texans defensive end is arguably the NFL’s best defender, with smarts and savvy to accent freakish agility and strength.
The reigning Defensive Player of the Year has 6.5 sacks, 17 quarterback hits and 23 hurries this season. He has four passes batted down at the line of scrimmage. According to Pro Football Focus, 33 of his 41 tackles constitute “stops,” solo tackles designated as a failed offensive play.
In other words: Watt is really, really good.
“For as big as he is, his burst to get to the quarterback is probably as good as I’ve seen,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. “He does a good job of setting up inside moves and then beating guys on the outside and using his athleticism. When you really look at it, for a big guy, he’s exceptionally athletic.”
Tony Pashos is the only man between Watt and an undrafted rookie quarterback making his first NFL start. No pressure, Tony.
Pashos comes equipped with veteran savvy and quality tricks of the trade. Watt is going to make plays against the run and pass, but Pashos has to give McGloin some time to work.
McGloin has a quick release, but he’s a pocket passer. The last time a pocket passer played for the Raiders, Matt Flynn was sacked seven times. That was against the Washington Redskins, who didn’t have Watt on their side.
Offensive coordinator Greg Olson will help Pashos with scheme, often leaving running backs in to block or swinging a tight end over to make a double team. Olson is wary, however, of focusing too much energy on one man.
“He’s surrounded by great players, so it makes it difficult to just focus on J.J. Watt,” Olson said. “I think their defense overall has a lot of talented players, so you have to be careful. Again, as we said, we don’t want that guy to wreck the game for us offensively, but you can’t spend so much of your energy on him that you forget about the rest of the 10 players on defense there because they have some very talented guys aside from J.J. up front and at the linebacker position and in the secondary they’re talented.”
Having Pashos back is a real blessing. Rookie Menelik Watson struggled last week in his first NFL start, a loss to the New York Giants. The Raiders didn’t want Watson going against Watt all game long. Pashos has finally recovered from a hip injury that kept him out of three games.
"The more years you put in this league you kind of re-evaluate what 100 percent means," Pashos said. "I'm at 100 percent but it's not a 22-year-old's 100 percent. I'm feeling really good."
Watt is too. He has a sack in each of the past three games and believes he’s playing the best run defense of his career.
“I pride myself on being an all-around player,” Watt said. “I pride myself on being good against the pass and good against the run, a guy you can count on every single play. No matter what the offense is doing, no matter what type of team you’re playing and I feel like that’s the way I am and that’s the way I can best help any team I’m on. I’m just trying to do every single thing I can to help this team win football games.”