Watt's up: Cardinals DE off IR for Rams game

INGLEWOOD, Calif. — The Arizona Cardinals activated defensive lineman J.J. Watt off injured reserve on Monday afternoon, just hours before playing the Los Angeles Rams in the last NFC wild-card game of the weekend.

It was the next formal step for Watt to play Monday night, completing another fast recovery from a major injury. Watt suffered a shoulder injury on Oct. 24 and after having surgery on Nov. 3, was told he’d be out four to six months. If he plays Monday night, only 13 weeks would have passed since the injury.

Watt’s last step to taking the field Monday will come 90 minutes before the game when the inactives are announced. If he’s active, it’s likely he’ll play.

Watt has teased to the idea that he would return Monday night through various social media posts. On Friday, defensive coordinator Vance Joseph: “don’t be surprised if he’s ready to go.” Watt’s return would be welcomed by the Cardinals.

They were 7-0 with him but 4-6 without him. Their defense led the NFL in scoring defense and had the top defensive efficiency with Watt on the field, according to ESPN Stats and Information. Since Watt’s injury, the Cardinals’ defense allowed an NFL-worst 61 Total QBR since Week 8 and generated pressure at the third-lowest rate in the league in that span, doing so on 23% of opposing QB dropbacks, per ESPN Stats and Information.

Watt may be the answer to to slowing the Cardinals’ recent skid: They lost four of their last five. Having Watt back would “no doubt it would give us a boost,” head coach Kliff Kingsbury has said.

Watt, a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, is in his first season with the Cardinals after 10 seasons with the Houston Texans. He has one sack this season and 102 in his career.

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