TEMPE, Ariz. – On the eve of their biggest game of the season to date, the Arizona Cardinals lost one of their most important defenders.
Defensive JJ Watt will undergo shoulder surgery, which is likely to be the end of the season, 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 battle 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 is the highest combined winning percentage (0.929) 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 victories meet in 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 sit in first place in the NFC, ruled out Watt against the Packers when the injury report was released earlier Wednesday. He did not attend the Cardinals’ only week of training on Tuesday. It turned out that his status was much worse.
Watt had recently found his mark in the Cardinals’ defense after needing about four games to both get the football legs under him after missing the entire training camp due to a hamstring injury and getting used to a new defense.
Watt had 10 tackles, including five for a loss, and a sack this season. He mingled with new defensive teammates and managed to do what has been an integral part of his career: getting to the quarterback often. He finished with 10 quarterback hits in the first seven games, including nine in his last four.
But his influence goes deeper on a Cardinals defense that is the best on third down and is just leading in the league with the fewest allowed points per game. match.
He has the third-highest pass rush winning rate for defensive tackles, according to the NFL Next Gen Stats. Watt hit his block within 2.5 seconds at 22.8% of snaps as he lined up for defensive tackling, the third-best rate in the league.
The Watts pass rush has led to three sacks and two interceptions
“I think J has been playing well the last three weeks,” Cardinal defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said before Sunday’s win over the Houston Texans. “He missed camp, so the first few games of the season he was not in shape. From the Rams game, the San Fran game last week, to [Sunday], he has played at a high level. He’s so disturbing. He makes plays. The sack numbers are not there, but in terms of the games he has made on third downs, hitting balls down, making TFLs on first and second down, he has been a dominant player for the last three weeks. “
And now another injury to this year’s triple defender.
This will be the fourth season of his career that Watt will miss matches due to an injury. He missed eight games in 2019 due to a torn buck, 11 games in 2017 due to a broken left shin and 13 games in 2016 due to two back surgeries.
Although Watt will be out, the Cardinals will have defender Chandler Jones, who missed the last two games due to COVID-19. He was activated from the reserve / COVID-19 list on Monday.
A win would make the Cardinals 8-0 for the first time in franchise history.
Even with Watt not at 100%, Arizona’s defense was dominant Sunday in a 31-5 victory over the Texans.
“It was a match we should have won,” said Cardinals linebacker Isaiah Simmons. “And we did.”