This is going to be a huge season for both Jadeveon Clowney and the Houston Texans, who drafted him No. 1 overall just a couple of years ago.
I would imagine the average fan looks at Clowney as somewhat of a bust. I disagree with that, but I certainly understand where they're coming from. It doesn't help when you have a guy like Khalil Mack -- who was also projected to maybe go first overall in 2014 -- balling out and making All-Pro teams out in Oakland, while Clowney only has 4.5 sacks in his first two seasons combined. The fact that Clowney's teammate, Whitney Mercilus, has notched 17 sacks over the last two seasons -- including 12 last year -- would probably also give the average fan plenty of reasons to be skeptical of Clowney.
But here's the thing: Jadeveon Clowney hasn't been healthy since the first game of his last season of college football. That is simply a matter of record.
A jackass offensive lineman cheap-shotted him in that first game and hurt his ankle. Then, at some point along the way, he had an injury to his torso that slowed him down at the end of that season. Come to find out, after the season, that injury -- which his head coach had publicly called him out for after a game -- ended up being a sports hernia he had to have surgically repaired. Then, he hurt his knee his rookie season and ended up having the dreaded microfracture surgery last spring, a procedure notorious for taking away a player's explosiveness.
After using all last offseason basically for rehab, Clowney didn't get much time on the field to actually work on his craft. Then of course, he had a myriad of injuries during last season, culminating in a Lisfranc foot injury that ended his season, but fortunately for him did not require surgery.
Man ... that's a lot!
Somewhat related, if you watched Clowney in college you knew that, while he had a super rare combination of size and athletic ability, he was still raw technique-wise. Because he's had all of those injuries, he really hasn't been able to work on actually improving his technique.
I will say that last year he looked a lot better taking on blocks while playing the run, something that he definitely needed work on coming out of college. He also played a lot stronger than he had before. But you could still see that little things were missing from his game.
His bull rush got better, for instance, but Clowney was still inconsistent with his hands when he wanted to escape off of it. He was also still getting accustomed to being precise with his hands when he wanted to use finesse moves. As the season went on, he did get better, but it still left a lot to be desired. Worse, it seemed like every time he looked to be taking a step forward, up popped another injury. .
Finally this offseason, Clowney didn't have to worry about a bunch of rehab and instead was on the field getting better at what he actually gets paid to do. That means he was able to work on using his hands and improving his footwork when trying to pass rush. It also means he was able to actually get in the kind of football shape he needs to be in heading into training camp.
He's finally healthy enough to go out and show all those casual fans why the Texans took him No. 1 overall in the first place.
Now, let me tell you why that should terrify opposing offenses.
See, it's not hard to find some plays where Clowney didn't look great last season. Every once in a while you will see somebody tweet out a GIF of a bad play and everybody retweets it and gets in a good laugh.
What I also saw from Clowney last year were flashes of the kinds of plays that not many edge rushers can make. Like beating a kickout block upfield on a trap play and still being able to make the tackle in the backfield, something Clowney did several times.
Then there was how Clowney rag-dolled tight ends on a regular basis in the run game. I can tell you this much: it was obvious on film that while doing all that rehab Clowney was also spending a lot of time in the weight room. He was out there crushing fools on a regular basis against the run, even though it was obvious his knee still wasn't 100 percent.
Oh, and there were the plays where he did that same stutter step he used in college to beat blockers out in space and get in the opposing team's backfield practically untouched.
Hell, they even had Clowney rushing at defensive tackle a bit. The results weren't always pretty, but he showed some real potential there. He definitely has the size for it now.
Add better pass rush technique and the fact that Clowney is likely to be more explosive than he has been since the end of that first game his last year in college ... I'm just telling you, shit is probably about to get real in Houston, Holmes.
Of course this is all contingent on Clowney actually staying healthy, and there just is no way to know for sure if he will be able to do that at this point. But if he can ... bruh.
Just imagine him and Mercilus coming screaming off the edge with J.J. Watt inside. Orrrrrrr imagine Clowney lining up inside with Watt. Orrrrrr imagine Watt on the outside and Clowney inside ... On. The. Same. Damn Side.
*shivers like a crackhead*
If Jadeveon Clowney plays 16 games this season, I expect him to have double-digit sacks, period. I would also expect the Texans to actually win the division. I'll tell you one more thing: if Clowney plays all 16 games there ain't gonna be all these jokes and kee keeing going on about him anymore, either. Y'all gonna have to put some respeck on his name this year, beleeeeee dat!