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The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Houston star DE Watt focused on doing his part to help Texans turn things around in 2014

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HOUSTON - Houston's J.J. Watt knows it's cliche to say "we're working hard every day" and he's "just trying to be a good teammate."

That doesn't stop the 2012 Defensive Player of the Year from using phrases like that often, saying those comments encapsulate what he's trying to do to help this team get back on track after last year's epic collapse.

"Trust me, I know that I speak in a lot of cliches," Watt said. "But cliches get to be cliches because they're true."

Last year was Watt's first losing season in his three years in the NFL, and he took each loss personally.

"We're trying to learn things. We're trying to be a good teammate, trying to do all of those things, and if you actually take it to heart and you actually do what you're saying, you'll have success," he said. "You can't let it just be lip service. You can't just talk about it; you have to do the actions."

He and the Texans had designs on making a deep playoff run last year after two straight trips to the post-season. Instead the team was doomed by injuries and poor quarterback play, and Houston finished tied for the worst record in franchise history at 2-14.

Watt had 80 tackles and 10 1/2 sacks, a year after he had a career-high 20 1/2 sacks and swatted down 16 passes.

Teams have used various tactics in an attempt to slow Watt down. The Texans try to counteract that by lining him up in various places, something that he really enjoys.

"It's fun ... to improve upon your technique at different spots because you never know how you're going to be used or when you're going to be used in what situations," Watt said. "So the better you get at each one, the better you're going to be overall."

This season Watt is tasked with learning a new system under first-year defensive co-ordinator Romeo Crennel. The revamped unit is certain to get a boost by the addition of top overall draft pick Jadeveon Clowney, who will move from defensive end to outside linebacker to beef up Houston's pass rush.

Crennel was asked recently who had stood out to him on his defence during the first week of camp, and it wasn't a surprise that the overachieving Watt topped the list.

"You cannot help but see J.J.," Crennel said. "He just shows up with his effort and the way he goes about his job and working at it."

Crennel isn't the only one who has been impressed by Watt and his work ethic. Houston's less experienced players look to the defensive end as an example of how to act.

"J.J.'s done a lot of great things on the field and off the field," safety D.J. Swearinger said. "He does things the right way, how they're supposed to be done. And that's something that as young players, you can look up to that. When you go to work, if you had an off day, you just look at J.J. and you see he's working 100 miles per hour every day. He doesn't take a day off, and with his leadership, he can spread it to a lot of players."

Watt, who turned 25 in March, certainly isn't old, but he said he feels like an "old man" because of the wisdom and experience he's gained with three NFL seasons under his belt. He loves it when new players approach him in the cafeteria or gym and ask him questions about how to get better.

"That stuff is really neat to be able to talk about because that means guys are interested," he said. "That means guys are trying to get better and trying to improve, and that's what you love."

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AP NFL websites: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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