Jadeveon Clowney emerging as force against run

The excellent play of Clowney against the run has seemingly slipped under the radar this season.

| 1 year ago
(AP Photo/Bob Leverone)

(AP Photo/Bob Leverone)

Jadeveon Clowney emerging as force against run

In the Texans’ game against the Colts, J.J. Watt was largely invisible. One reason is because Indianapolis rarely ran to Watt’s side. Only six of the Colts 26 carries went to the right of the RG, and Indy only averaged 3.5 yards on those carries. This meant a lot more runs to the left, but they weren’t much more successful there. When running outside of the left guard, the Colts only averaged 3.5 yards per carry. A big reason for that was Jadeveon Clowney. When he was on the field and the Colts ran outside of the left guard, they only averaged 2.9 yards per carry.

For being the first overall pick of the 2014 NFL draft, it seems to many people that Clowney hasn’t lived up to expectations. He’s only played 380 snaps in his career to this point, and has yet to record his first NFL sack.

In reality, however, he has been playing very well in the NFL, especially against the run.

In all nine of his NFL games, he’s posted a minimum PFF run defense grade of +0.4. His cumulative run defense grade of +9.8 this year is tied for the best among all edge defenders. His run stop percentage of 10.0 percent is the fourth-best for all 3-4 outside linebackers. Last night, he had his best game yet in the pros.

3-4 OLB PFF cumulative run defense grade
T-1. Jadeveon Clowney, HOU +9.8
T-1. Pernell McPhee, CHI +9.8
3. Justin Houston, KC +6.7
4. Khalil Mack, OAK +4.4
5. Ryan Kerrigan, WAS +4.3

When the Colts ran to the left, Clowney had one tackle for a loss and two for no gain, although one was called back due to someone else’s penalty. Twice the Colts tried to do a cut block with a pulling tight end, but neither worked well, and RB Frank Gore was forced to make a cut to avoid Clowney. On another run to the left, Clowney was able to push the tight end back to squeeze the running lane. On those five runs where Clowney was involved (outside of the one called back by penalty), the Colts averaged 1 yard per play. All of this came on just 17 snaps against the run. This led to a +4.2 run defense grade for Clowney, the second-best for an edge defender in a game this season.

As a pass rusher this season, although Clowney doesn’t have a sack, he does have two hits and 12 hurries. His pass rushing productivity of 9.4 is average for a 3-4 outside linebacker, and a big step up from his 2.4 pass rushing productivity last year.

Teams can’t run to the right against the Texans, and thanks to Clowney’s play, they can’t run to the left, either. With a little better play from the inside linebackers, the Texans could have the best run defense in the league, and Clowney is a big reason why. If he can continue his stellar run-game performance and become a more consistent pass rusher, he could become the player we all thought he would be coming out of college.

| Director of Analytics

Nathan has been with Pro Football Focus since 2010. He is the Director of Analytics, an NFL analyst, and a fantasy writer.

  • Elvis Appiah-Kubi

    where’s Von Miller ranked?

    • Forrest

      I checked the advanced stats. Von Miller is currently ranked 7th 3-4 OLB against the run with a 3.2 grade.

      • Mario

        How did you checked? Did you have a Premium stats subscription?

  • Thatdude1994

    but who are the running backs the texans have played against?Not many big names.

    • Trenton Tyler Rains

      Jamaal Charles, Frank Gore and Devonte Freeman are all very good.

      • Cant FixStupid

        And both Gore and Freeman had strong days. Freeman 149 total yards, 4.9 ypc and 3 rush TDs. Gore had 98, 4.5 ypc and a TD. Hard to believe Clowney has been such a force against the run when the last 2 RB’s they’ve faced have averaged over 4.5 ypc on em.

      • Thatdude1994

        frank gore is washed up as for freeman he has a good o-line and he has played some questionable defenses his better years are a head of him for sure though.

  • Brian

    Imagine Clowney, the athletic freak and after 2 years of college hype, became a dominant run stopper but weak pass rusher lol

  • sam

    Some “force”! Houston has given up 135 points on defense – far and away the most in the entire league!

    • crashby89

      Because JJ and Clowney are the ones playing in the secondary getting shredded every week right? Why is it hard for people to understand that individuals can excel yet the unit as a whole still be bad?

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      • Cant FixStupid

        No, but they are playing around the LOS, where ya know, Davonte Freeman usually starts and ended up putting up 149 total yards and 3 rushing TD’s on em just last week. And Frank Gore had 98 with a 4.5 ypc average just the other night. Don’t look too much like a force against the run to me. And don’t Vince Wilfork play in the middle of Watt and Clowney??

        • jack tracy

          You have an ironic screen name.

        • crashby89

          You didnt read the article did you? When they ran to where Clowney or Watt were they were stopped. When they ran everywhere else they put up big carries. 2 players can only do so much when the other 9 cant do anything. Simple stuff really.