JJ Watt, Chandler Jones, and Von Miller return healthy
By: Chandler Hyler
Following a monstrous 2019 season for star pass rusher Chandler Jones, 2020 was disastrous. In a season that started slow for Jones, he was diagnosed with a season-ending biceps injury after week 5.
Needing to be mentioned, Jones amassed just 1 total sack to this point. That being said, pass rushers like Jones can get into a rhythm, much like any other athlete.
Prior to 2020, Jones showed no signs of slowing down. In what some may say has been an underappreciated career, he has totaled 97 sacks in just 9 seasons.
It’s an “odd” year in 2021; Jones seems to be more productive in odd seasons, for whatever reason. There isn’t actually a reason for this, so coincidentally, can Jones hop back on the train tracks?
Now, a teammate of Chandler Jones, JJ Watt is another candidate to be poised for a rejuvenating 2021. Between the star-studded duo of Jones & Watt, they have just under 200 sacks combined. Quarterbacks in the NFC West should be frightened.
JJ Watt is a physical freak, but has only toppled double-digit sacks once since 2016. His best recent season came in 2018 when he had 16 sacks. In the years prior 2018, Watt also had just 1.5 sacks combined in 2016 & 2017.
Watt was drafted 11th overall in the 2011 NFL Draft and has been a wrecking ball when on the field. Like the 2nd overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft Von Miller, JJ Watt was one of the most feared defenders during the 2010’s.
Von Miller, who has undoubtedly been the face of the Denver Broncos franchise since Peyton Manning retired, faced a similar fate. Unfortunately for Miller, he never even seen the field in 2020.
In an offseason that reaped high praise for Miller was cut short, just before the beginning of the preseason. Anyone who was invested in this Denver Broncos team must have heard about how impressive Miller looked in camp.
It was noted that Miller did not take a vacation during the offseason leading up to the 2020 season. Determined to come back from multiple years of decreased production for the future Hall-of-Famer, Miller spent his summer improving his craft.
Having Von Miller on your defensive front is one thing, but having Von Miller with a chip on his shoulder is a different animal. With question marks now swarming his production, but also his availability is going to have Miller motivated again.
Miller is also an unrestricted free agent in 2022, everyone seems to perform better during a contract year. Whether it is coincidence or not, Miller has multiple reasons to bounce back in 2021.
With Jones, Miller, and Watt all coming back from disappointing seasons, I think they could all come out on fire. All being uber-talented, a little extra drive to prove they’re not meeting father time could be all the motivation they need.
If I had to point my finger at one of the previous decade’s top defenders to shine in 2021, it would be Von Miller. Like Jones and Watt, Miller will also have a Pro Bowler on the opposite side of him. Bradley Chubb just recently underwent a minor procedure but should be full go by the beginning of the season.
Miller seems hungrier than ever to prove doubters wrong with his age and declining sack numbers in a previous couple of years. It wouldn’t shock me to see Miller and Chubb combine for 30 sacks in 2021. After all, it is a contract year for Miller.
That alone should be enough motivation for Miller to get back to wreaking havoc on opposing signal-callers. While Chandler Jones & JJ Watt will benefit from being teammates in 2021, it is my prediction Miller will put his name in the conversation once again for Defensive Player of the Year Honors.