On the evening of Dec. 16, 2013, in the press box of Reliant Stadium following a 29-17 Texans win over the Colts, I considered J.J. Watt’s ridiculously good game and wrote this:
For years, AFC South teams looked at how the Colts operated with Peyton Manning and drafted with an emphasis on running backs who could help them play keep-away and defensive backs who increased their chances of slowing one of the NFL's best quarterbacks.
(Andrew) Luck may wind up dictating some of the same things.
But the three teams of the AFC South looking to end a two-year reign by the Texans would be wise to raise the value they put on interior offensive linemen going forward.
"You need elite offensive line play to block elite defensive linemen like Watt with any consistency," Colts general manager Ryan Grigson said. "If you don't play near-perfect from a technique standpoint, he will eat you alive. Six-foot-six, 290 with motor and instincts. A true game wrecker."
Watt is hardly the sole reason guards were a premium position for the Tennessee Titans to address as the 2013 league year started. They were thinking far more about Jake Locker and Chris Johnson as they signed Andy Levitre from Buffalo right as free agency opened on Tuesday.
But twice a year, and conceivably again in the playoffs, to have success against Houston the Titans are going to need for Locker and Johnson to be well protected from Watt, the 2012 defensive player of the year who’s likely to be a terror in the AFC South for a good while.
Left tackle Michael Roos, Levitre, who is expected to play left guard, and right tackle David Stewart are all very solid linemen. Center Fernando Velasco is more than functional if he’s part of a good group.
I’d bet, at worst, the Titans will wind up with Kentucky’s Larry Warford -- widely regarded as the third-best guard prospect -- in the draft to play on the right side.
Refortified on the interior, the Titans will be a lot less likely to allow Watt to notch four sacks, two batted passes, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery like he did against them in 2012.