Texans-49ers matchup No. 1: Alex Boone vs. J. J. Watt
J.J Watt has 3.5 sacks and eight tackles for loss with three passes broken up through four games this season. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
Editor's note: This is the final part in a series that spotlights three 49ers-Texans matchups to watch Sunday, 5:30 p.m., at Candlestick Park.
49ers RG Alex Boone vs. Texans DT J.J. Watt
Tale of the tape
Boone (75): 6 foot 8, 300 pounds, fourth season, Ohio State
Watt (99): 6 foot 5, 289 pounds, third season, Wisconsin
Since Alex Boone made the transition from swing tackle to right guard a year ago, he has capably met every challenge.
But his job does not get any more difficult than what he will face Sunday night against the Houston Texans. The best defensive lineman in football will regularly line up across from Boone in the game's featured matchup.
J.J. Watt, who earned NFL Defensive Player of the Year last season, will be on Boone’s side any time the 49ers have the tight end on the right side of their formation. Boone did not hesitate when asked if this is his greatest challenge since moving into the 49ers’ starting lineup last season.
“I think so,” he said. “Absolutely. I think when the reigning MVP of the defense comes in, that’s one thing where eyebrows go up. People get excited. So other than the Super Bowl, I’d say, this is the test.”
Boone has been exceptional since the position change was presented to him in the offseason before the 2012 season. After a strong first season as a starter, Boone has graded out as the 49ers’ best offensive lineman by a large margin through four games, according to Pro Football Focus’ ratings system.
In fact, Boone has played so well the 49ers have debated internally whether Boone or Mike Iupati should be the top priority among the guards to sign to a long-term contract extension, a source told CSNBayArea.com. Boone is signed through the 2015 season, while Iupati’s first contract is set to expire after 2014.
Boone will be highlighted in front of a national-television audience as he goes up against a player running back Frank Gore refers to as “a little Justin Smith.” But there’s nothing little about Watt, who is a destructive force for the No. 1-ranked defense in the NFL.
Watt is adept at holding the point against the run, getting into the backfield to make plays, swatting pass attempts at the line of scrimmage and sacking the quarterback. In short, there’s nothing he does not do – and do exceptionally well.
“He can ruin a game,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. “He can ruin a game for his opponent.”
Said 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman, “Boy, he can stir it up. He stirs it up run game, pass game, front side, back side, double-teamed, single-blocked. This guy is a handful.”
Watt recorded a league-best 20.5 sacks last season and batted down 16 passes at the line of scrimmage. He was part of 95 plays that resulted in zero or negative yards.
And he’s not slowing down this season, either. Watt has 3.5 sacks and eight tackles for loss with three passes broken up through four games.
“He’s a great player, there’s no question about that,” Boone said. “He’s smart. He’s very talented. He’s quick. He’s one of those guys who’s got everything. It’s going to be a full day. He doesn’t ever stop. He has energy all day.”