IRVING, Texas -- In all my years of scouting players, I can honestly say until today that I had never sat down and studied the Pro Bowl on tape. I am sure you are wondering why the sudden change of heart? My curiosity really stemmed from how the first time players Travis Frederick and Zack Martin played.
If you asked me to describe the pace of the game, it was very similar to what you might see during a Wednesday practice where the defense is trying to give the offense a good picture by taking three really good steps then shutting it down in order to protect each other.
It was this way across the board with the one bi exception -- J.J. Watt working against Tyron Smith. The intensity that Watt showed was similar to what he had seen from him when he battled Smith during that early October meeting between the Cowboys and Texans at AT&T Stadium.
Watt was not interested in going hard for just three steps and allowing Smith to take him out of the play. There were several snaps where Watt exploded up the field in order to attempt to grab the corner, and, to Smith's credit, he was up to the task even playing across from his normal spot at left tackle.
Smith looked comfortable and relaxed in the way that he handled Watt, who, on each rush came with a different pass rush move in order to try and break down the young tackle. He tried to swim one time and Smith caught him right in the ribs and stopped him in his tracks. On another rush, Watt charged hard up the field, then tried to spin hard to the outside to catch Smith off balance. Smith calmly kept his base and spun Watt around with his hands, never losing contact with him.
On the second Jimmy Graham touchdown of the game, when he went up the seam, Watt tried to get the corner, but Smith was able to push him wide. It allowed Matthew Stafford to step up in the pocket to make the throw. There was a play later in the second half where Smith faced the same rush from Watt, and Stafford once again moved forward in the pocket due to Smith keeping Watt wide.
When his squad ran the ball, Smith was just as effective in the way that he was able to handle Watt. There was a zone play coming to Smith's side with the Broncos' C.J. Anderson carrying the ball behind him where Smith was able to reach Watt getting into his body then turning him to the outside, which allowed Anderson to break the ball inside for a nice gain.
There was only one running play where Smith struggled with Watt and that occurred while Smith was playing at right tackle. On the play, Smith took a hard step to the right to make a reach block. Watt read the play correctly and took an inside charge leaving Smith overextended and in space. In the backfield, C.J. Anderson had trouble handling the ball and put it on the ground, where Watt was in position to make the recovery.
J.J. Watt finished the day as the Defensive MVP, but the tape shows that he was far from that in his battle with Tyron Smith, who refused to give him an inch in this matchup.