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You didn’t forget about Jadeveon Clowney did you?

Last year's No. 1 overall pick had his season all but erased by injuries. He's back in the Texans lineup this season, looking as menacing as ever.

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

I am sure I am not the only draft analyst, nor football fan for that matter, who was anxious to see how the Texans' second-year outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney would look in his first action after having microfracture surgery on his knee last season. As a guy who was drafted with the No. 1 pick, amid questions about his effort and technique, the 2014 season had to be disappointing for both Clowney and his team as he suffered through a myriad of injuries before being shut down in December because of the knee injury.

Microfracture surgeries are tricky. Not many players have come back to play at their previous level of athleticism and explosiveness after having it. With that in mind, I took a closer look at all of Clowney's plays from Sunday's loss to the Chiefs, and let me tell you, I was not disappointed.

The Texans stuck to their word and kept him on a "pitch count," with Clowney staying in for 31 plays, most of them on passing downs. Right off the bat the thing that stood out the most to me was the explosion he showed in taking on run blocks. Clowney has always been an explosive player, but that hasn't always translated into success playing the run. Now, he has learned to use his hands better coming off the ball, and man, does that make a huge difference.

He absolutely crushed several different Chiefs tight ends throughout the game, just blowing them up and rag dolling them all over the place. On his very first play, Clowney got into Travis Kelce's chest with such a powerful punch that it looked like he might pancake him for a second. He didn't end up making the tackle on that play, but he did severely restrict the running lane while also forcing Jamaal Charles back inside by doing a great job setting the edge. For all Clowney's obvious physical gifts, his game's been lacking that before now.

That play doesn't show up in the stat sheet and probably didn't catch your eye at home, but having followed Clowney's career for years now, it was an important sign of his growth. His technique is starting to catch up with his tremendous ability and he showed he still packs a lot of power even after the knee surgery.

As a pass rusher, Clowney is still kind of feeling his way through. He did have some encouraging improvement in that department on Sunday, as well. In particular, his speed rush on a screen play in the first quarter got me more than just a little excited.

I feel like way too many college speed rushers go to the NFL and have coaches on that level that try to force them to be bull rushers. (I said the same thing about Falcons rookie Vic Beasley on Twitter during their Monday Night Football game against the Eagles.)

Teaching speed rushers how to bull rush is essential because the way the ball comes out fast in the NFL, it will be the only move they can use to get some pressure in the quarterback's face quickly. However, when it's an obvious passing situation where the quarterback will likely need time to get the pass off, those guys ought to be allowed to run around people, with good technique of course.

Clowney still isn't giving you much as a bull rusher, though I do think he has improved there, as well. That speed rush in the first quarter is what I would love to see more of from him on a consistent basis because it will make all of his other rushes, especially his bull rush, that much more effective once he gets an offensive tackle bailing out trying to deal with his speed. Even all world defensive lineman J.J. Watt, his teammate, runs around people more than he runs over them. When Clowney figures that part out it's gonna to be trouble, trouble. *Bernie Mac voice*

Watt has already felt Clowney's influence, too. He picked up a sack on Sunday after Clowney looped inside on a blitz and barely missed quarterback Alex Smith but still put him squarely in Watt's cross hairs.

The thought of a healthy Clowney coming off one side while Watt comes off the other is going to be enough to give plenty of offensive coordinators sleepless nights this season and many more to come.

I was a little concerned as the game went on because, to my untrained eye, it looked like Clowney started dragging his leg a little bit by the end of the game. That could just be because he still isn't really in football shape having not played in any of the preseason games, or maybe it was just my imagination running wild. Still, I would guess most folks who follow Clowney and his progress this season, including the Texans, will be concerned any time he doesn't look 100 percent on the field.

He did still manage to make a few really impressive plays late in the game that helped the Texans come back and make a game of it, so whatever he had going on with his leg didn't hamper him all that much. All in all, I felt this was a better-than-solid debut for Clowney. If he can just stay healthy, he should continue to improve as he gets more game reps under his belt.


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