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Jadeveon Clowney is the face of the Texans defense now and he's wrecking everything

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Anyone wondering how Clowney would do without teammates J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus got their answer last Sunday. He’s retired NFL defensive end Stephen White’s Hoss of the Week, again.

NFL: Houston Texans at Seattle Seahawks Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into this season I was really excited to see if J.J. Watt could bounce back from back surgery to play at even close to the level he used to play. If he could, then he, and Whitney Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney, had a really good shot at being the best defensive front in all of the National Football League this year. I allowed myself to briefly imagine just what kind of carnage those three would leave in their wake if they were all finally able to stay healthy and play 16 games together.

I should've known better.

Football karma, being the disrespectful asshole that it is, decided it would be totes cool to knock Watt and Mercilus out for the season after just the fifth game of the year. Not only did that mean we would all be deprived of the joy of watching that group lay waste to offenses for the rest of the season, but it also shifted a lot of pressure onto Clowney's shoulders as the last guy standing for once. The former No. 1 overall pick has played well the last couple of years and has already been named Hoss of the Week once this season, but I don't think think anybody would've described him as the leader of that defensive front group.

Until now.

The Texans blew the doors off the Browns in Week 6, but Clowney didn't flash much. In fairness, they were up 24-3 by halftime, and Clowney didn't play much in the fourth quarter. With the Texans having a bye in Week 7, however, it gave them an opportunity to really adjust to life with out Watt and Mercilus in terms of their game planning.

It also, evidently, gave Clowney an opportunity to adjust his mentality to becoming the man. If the defense needed a big play, Watt and Mercilus weren’t available, so it would likely have to come from Clowney. If his performance against the Seahawks on Sunday afternoon was any indication, he is more than up to the job.

This was the Clowney many of us were expecting to see when he came out of college. He was all over the place, just living in the Seahawks' backfield and forcing Russell Wilson to run for his life all afternoon. It ultimately wasn't quite enough to bring home the victory for the Texans, but if he can continue to play at that level, the wins will certainly come.


Clowney got his day of big plays going with 3:15 left in the first quarter. The Seahawks were facing a third-and-2 from the Seattle 31-yard line.

Clowney lined up as the right defensive end on the outside shoulder of Seahawks left tackle Rees Odhiambo. On the snap, Clowney came off the ball and punched Odhiambo dead in his chest with both hands, got full extension, and then executed a nice arm over where he snatched Odhiambo's outside shoulder with his right hand and pulled it forward while throwing his left arm over Odhiambo's head to get passed him. Clowney then dipped and turned the corner, approaching Russell Wilson just as he was about to try to throw the football.

Clowney was able to reach out with his right hand and swipe the ball out of Wilson's hand before it started forward to throw the ball for what was ultimately, correctly, ruled a sack and caused fumble.

Unfortunately for Clowney and his Texans, the ball initially looked a lot like an incomplete pass squirting forward out of Wilson's hand. Seattle tight end Luke Willson was able to recover it relatively easily 11 yards down the field. It was ruled an incomplete pass at first but, ironically enough, the Seahawks successfully challenged that it was a sack, fumble, and fumble recovery by their guy, which gave them a first down instead of it being fourth-and-2.

But that's OK, because Clowney was just getting started anyway.

With 47 seconds left in the first quarter, Clowney showed off the kind of crazy quickness that I'd seen constantly on his college tape.

He was standing up as the right outside linebacker, once again on Odhiambo's outside shoulder, when the Seahawks motioned Jimmy Graham over to his side. Seattle wanted to run a wide zone with their speedy backup running back J.D. McKissic, so Graham was supposed to chip Clowney inside to Odhiambo who would then try to get outside leverage on Clowney while Graham went up to the second level to seal the outside linebacker. In theory, it would create a clear path to the sideline for McKissic who has the potential to take it to the house any time he touches the football.

In theory.

Well, contrary to what you might have heard, Graham did do his job for the most part. He chipped where Clowney was supposed to be and then continued his track up to seal the linebacker inside like he was supposed to do. The problem is Clowney was so quick at recognizing the blocking scheme that as soon as Graham took a step outside, Clowney jumped inside, almost like a running back executing a jump cut in the hole.

Poor Odhiambo was anticipating having to get wide so he could reach Clowney. He took a long, wide first step on the snap of the football. Clowney flew inside of him so quickly that I'm not 100 percent sure Odhiambo ever actually saw him before he was already beaten.

McKissic never stood a chance.

Clowney was on him so fast that about the only thing McKissic could do was make sure he didn't fumble as he was taken down for a 4-yard loss.

On Seattle's next drive, they opened the second quarter facing a third-and-14 from their own 39-yard line. This time Clowney was standing up as the right outside linebacker with inside linebacker Benardrick McKinney lined up inside of him as the three-technique.

Clowney and McKinney ran a nice TEX game on Odhiambo and left guard Ethan Pocic. The two offensive linemen tried to stay with their man instead of passing off the pass-rush game, which ended up forcing Clowney to fight off an obvious hold by Odhiambo just as he was about to sack Wilson.

Wilson ended up reversing out to try to escape the rush, but Clowney kept working and ended up getting a hurry after Wilson ultimately had to throw the ball away.

I bring this up because while Clowney had a big day, he would have had even more of an impact had the refs called all the obvious holds that saved Russell Wilson's ass all day long. It was so egregious, it got frustrating to watch after awhile. If I could, I would have credited Clowney with two hurries on this play because that was some bullshit.

But I digress.

On another note, for the announcers to (erroneously) call out Graham the way they did for that first Clowney tackle for a loss, I gotta think they must want Willson skinned alive for his whiff on Clowney.

With 9:34 left in the first half, Clowney was standing up as the right outside linebacker in a six-technique down the middle of Luke Willson. On the snap, Clowney made that same kind of quick move inside as he had against Graham. This time, however, Willson was supposed to stay on Clowney because it was a fullback lead play, and Odhiambo had to block the defensive tackle inside of him.

This was probably my favorite play of his on Sunday.

Clowney exploded into the backfield and absolutely crushed Seattle fullback Tre Madden, who went flying back into Eddie Lacy, who was just minding his business trying to run the football. The force with which Clowney knocked the shit out of Madden was damn near enough to make Madden tackle Lacy.

Once he was able to maintain his balance, Lacy tried to spin out and continue on his run, but Clowney would not be denied. He kept working until he was, along with Kareem Jackson, able to take Lacy down for a 6-yard loss.

It was glorious.

Oh, Clowney actually had at least another half-sack in that game, too, that they didn't credit him with.

With a little more than 12 minutes left in the third quarter, Seattle was facing a third-and-7 close to midfield. Clowney was was standing up again, but this time he was lined up in a three-technique on Pocic's outside shoulder. Clowney initially tried to swipe Pocic's hands and get up field, but once he got stuck on that move, Clowney made a spin move back inside.

At the same time, Wilson was trying to climb the pocket to avoid Benardrick McKinney. Clowney reached around Pocic to grab Wilson while his teammate, linebacker Ufomba Kamalu, grabbed Wilson from behind as well to take him down for the sack.

Now, back when I was playing, our rule was the first guy to touch the quarterback on a sack was the one it was awarded to. If you couldn't tell which guy got there first, you divided the credit. Clowney certainly got to Wilson first, but I could understand someone questioning whether Clowney would have actually been able to take Wilson down had Kamalu not gotten involved. On the other hand, if Clowney hadn't done the spin back inside, Wilson would have had a lane to scramble away from Kamalu. Regardless, it looks like at least a half-sack for Clowney in my opinion.

We will see if there is a stat correction soon.

One other thing that stood out to me about Clowney's performance Sunday was how well he started using this out-in-out arm/over move. Odhiambo is obviously not a top-notch left tackle, but Clowney just killed him over and over with that move. Late in the third quarter, for instance, Clowney used it twice to help the Texans hold Seattle to three points after they had first-and-goal from the four.

On first down, Clowney hit Odhiambo with that out-in-out arm over while Odhiambo was trying to base block him. Clowney beat Odhiambo like a drum. Thomas Rawls, who was on a track as if he was going to run inside of Odhiambo's block, barely had the ball in his hands before Clowney was all in his grill. Clowney smashed him for a 5-yard loss and also hit Rawls with the Degeneration X "Suck It" celebration right after the play, which gave me all the feels.

Two plays later, on third-and-goal from the 3-yard line, Clowney did something I've not seen very many edge rushers be able to do. Clowney beat Odhiambo so fast and so clean with that out-in-out move that he was able to get a hurry on a goal-line fade pass. Oh, and did I mention Clowney also jumped over a cut block attempt by Rawls on that play as well?

I can't know for sure if Clowney sped up that throw by Wilson, but what I do know is that had he waited a half a second, that incompletion would've very likely turned into a sack, and that's good enough for me.

So earlier when I brought up obvious holds that the referees didn't call, that included one really big one that occurred with 1:39 left in the fourth quarter that may have changed the outcome of the game.

No, seriously.

The Texans had a 38-34 lead, and the Seahawks were at their own 20-yard line. Clowney lined up as the right defensive end again and came off like he was going to bullrush Odhiambo. Instead, Clowney did a stutter step to get Odhiambo to stop his feet and brace for power, then transitioned into a speed rip move.

Clowney had Odhiambo beaten around the corner when all of a sudden, Odhiambo goes down and, just before Clowney is able to reach out and grab Wilson, he ends up on the ground, too. Instead of that play ending in a hurry or a sack for Clowney, Wilson was able to flip the field and hit Paul Richardson for a 48-yard gain. Two plays later Seattle would score the winning touchdown.

That was garbage. The refs should be ashamed, but it was still good to see Clowney in position to make the game-changing play. He did what he was supposed to do, and that's all you can ask of any player.

Even with the refs screwing him at least four times in that game on blatant holds that weren't called, Clowney was still able to rack up 1.5 sacks, five hurries, 2.5 possible tackles for a loss — I gave him credit for he play where he blew up the fullback — plus two other tackles against the Seahawks. He also only missed one play on defense for the game, which is definitely something new for him.

With Watt and Mercilus gone for the year, the Texans need Jadeveon Clowney to step up and be the man. That's exactly what he did, and that's why he is my Hoss of the Week for Week 8 of the NFL season.


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