Belichick: Not a lot Watt can't do

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Belichick: Not a lot Watt can't do

If you look up tackling numbers for Houston defensive end J.J. Watt, you'll see they look similar to those of 2011.

Total in 2011: 48
Total in 2012: 49

Assists in 2011: 8
Assists in 2012: 10

Impressive, especially considering the Texans still have four games left to play, including a Monday night showdown in New England this week.

If you really want your eyebrows to get a workout, look at Watt's sack statistics. In 2011, his rookie season, he had 5.5.

Though 12 games this year: 15.5. He's nearly tripled last season's total.

The number is nearly unbelievable for a 3-4 defensive end. Traditionally, players at that position are two-gappers who work to free up playmaking linebackers.

If that's the mold, Watt has shattered it. Patriots coach Bill Belichick explained how on his Tuesday conference call.

"I think Houston, even though theyre a 3-4 base, theyre really an under team in their regular defense so theyre more of a one-gap team," Belichick said. "You see five technique a lot and then when they go to sub, hes an inside rusher and theyre in sub a lot. Theyre probably in sub more than theyre in base.

"He certainly makes a lot of plays in the 3-4 defense, he has excellent quickness and hes long so he does a good job rushing against everybody the tackles, the guards and hes very effective on games because of his speed and quickness and his length and his instincts."

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and his offensive line best be on guard Monday night.

Watt is not just a menace to the passing game for taking down quarterbacks; the 23-year old is nicknamed "J.J. Swatt" for a very good reason: He has defended 15 passes this year.

Only five players in the league have more. All five are cornerbacks.

"Thats a career number for a lot of defensive linemen 15 in one season is remarkable, really," Belichick said. "Of course hes long and hes athletic but he does have great instincts to get in the passing lane. So, if hes getting to the quarterback and knocking him down thats one thing. If hes not, if hes getting double teamed or the slide comes to him or something like that, hes also been very disruptive in not only knocking down balls but some of those have resulted in interceptions.

"Hes really a complete player, he does everything well. But yeah, that number of batted balls is, Id say, an extremely high number. Hes very disruptive."

It doesn't hurt that the 11-1 Texans are so often ahead in games they force quarterbacks into passing situations. Those situations give Watt and his defensive teammates more opportunities.

The note isn't included to take away from Watt's talent, it's just Houston's reality. That the team has a young defensive end who takes advantage every single chance he gets . . . well, that's where opponents should worry.

Did the Texans see it coming?

They saw enough to scoop Watt up with 2011's 11th overall draft pick. But while the selection is solid, any expectations it held have been exceeded exponentially.

Belichick has his theories on why.

"I dont think he had the opportunity to do some of the things that hes had the opportunity to do in the National Football League. He was a productive player in college but a little raw, a little underdeveloped in terms of his overall football experience. But obviously as hes gained that, hes really grown with it and hes become very adept and proficient at a number of different things and techniques.

"His athletic ability and his ability to be a better technique player, to recognize things, to play instinctively and all that has grown, its grown quickly and its been very impressive. Hes taken all the athletic ability that he has and hes really played with it to a very high level."

Watt will see how his stats stack up against the Patriots in less than one week.

Red Sox 'not going to rush' moving pitching depth after acquiring Sale

Red Sox 'not going to rush' moving pitching depth after acquiring Sale

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The addition of Chris Sale to the Red Sox' rotation has created a rare glut of starting pitchers, including seven with major league experience.

That means that at least one will have to be moved in a trade. But Red Sox' president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski isn't in any hurry.

"We're not aggressively looking to do something,'' he said. "We're really just digesting what's taken place. I think if we wanted to aggressively make a deal, we could definitely do that. But I don't really have a big hole on our major league club to address at this time.

"I think it's really important to gather all the info. Some teams have (starters) available; there are free agents out there. Our philosophy is kind of say, 'Let's just see what happens.' We're not going to rush out and do anything.''

That makes sense, especially since there's a very thin free agent market for starters, and many teams that need upgrades to their rotation.

Eventually, some are going to get desperate and may have to overpay. In that scenario, the Sox could really capitalize.

The starter the Sox would like to move the most is Clay Buchholz, if only because his salary ($13.5 million) is easily the highest among the three the Sox would be willing to part with. Steven Wright has yet to qualify for salary arbitration and Drew Pomeranz will get a bump from last year, but will still be under $5 million after arbitration.

Eduardo Rodriguez, meanwhile, almost certainly won't be dealt because of his youth and potential, though Dombrowski hinted that teams have checked on the availability of every starter except The Big Three of Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello "as well as guys who aren't (in the current major league picture like Brian Johnson, Henry Owens, and Roenis Elias).''

Depth in the rotation is always welcome, but the numbers are such that the Sox can't make the current group of seven starters work.

"You start counting,'' said Dombrowski, "and there's not enough spots for everybody on the team.''

It's possible that the Sox could go into spring training with all seven and wait to see if injuries elsewhere give them additional leverage.

But that, too, is unlikely.

"It seems like there's not a lot of moves made in spring training,'' he said.

As for what the Sox might be seeking in return, the Sox don't have any obvious need they have to fill. It's possible they could want to obtain some prospects to help restock the system after six were traded in two trades this week.

"I can't really answer that question.'' he said. "We've traded a lot (of prospects). We wouldn't mind replenishing some of what we've traded.''

Stevens on Thomas' groin injury: 'It’s important that he’s 100 percent'

Stevens on Thomas' groin injury: 'It’s important that he’s 100 percent'

There’s no such thing as a good time to have an injury. 

But in terms of Isaiah Thomas being sidelined with a right groin injury and the schedule awaiting the Boston Celtics … this is about as bad a time as you can imagine to be without their scoring leader.

Thomas returned to Boston ahead of tonight’s game at Orlando, marking his first game missed since the 2014-2015 season. 

He suffered a right groin injury in the second quarter of Boston’s 107-106 loss at Houston on Monday. 

At the time, Thomas was optimistic that he would be able to play tonight. But with a day off from practice, the soreness proved to be too much for Thomas to suit up and play tonight. 

While it’s unclear just how severe his groin injury is, the Celtics are likely to be overly cautious (like they are with most injuries) about his return which may result in him missing more games than Wednesday night’s matchup against Orlando. 

“Those things (groin injuries) are a little unpredictable,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens told reporters earlier today. “Especially in this sport, you have to be able to stop and change direction on a dime, especially him. It’s important that he’s 100 percent.”

Stevens is spot-on when he talks about how uncertain a return for Thomas is currently. 

New York’s Kristaps Porzingis suffered a groin injury against the Celtics in a preseason game back in October that didn’t result in anything more than him missing a day of practice. 

It was a different story when Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic suffered a right groin injury last spring (March 7-29) that sidelined him for 13 games. 

The timetable for Thomas’ return to the floor is likely to fall somewhere within those two timetables which would make an already daunting stretch of games even more difficult. 

Following tonight’s game, Boston has 12 games remaining in the month of December with nine being against teams with a winning record. And of the three games against teams below-.500 (Miami twice, Indiana), two of them are on the road.