Jadeveon Clowney can make a big impact in 2015
A week ago my colleague Jordan Plocher wrote about how the Houston Texans needed edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney to step up. He’s missed all of preseason this year and we’ve seen just 175 snaps from him, including the 2014 preseason and regular season, since he entered the NFL. That’s not the level of impact you need to see from the No. 1 overall pick, but it’s way too soon to be calling Clowney a bust. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise us at all if 2015 is a big season for Clowney, despite the fact that he has graded just average in limited action so far.
Let’s compare Clowney to another gifted pass-rusher who had a disappointing start to his career: Rams DE Robert Quinn. Drafted back in 2011, as a rookie, Quinn had a disappointing first season in terms of his total grade (-12.9) and didn’t make much of an impact as a pass-rusher, either (+1.3). Quinn followed that up with a similar second season (-14.9), before dominating in 2013 (+74.6). After two seasons where plenty would have been willing to label Quinn a bust, he had one of the best seasons of any defensive player in the NFL.
There’s no guarantee that Clowney can step it up like that, and there’s no denying that the Texans haven’t gotten their money’s worth out of the top pick in the 2014 NFL draft yet. But it’s still too early to be writing him off. The Texans are in serious need of a second pass-rusher behind J.J. Watt, and Clowney is perfectly positioned to take on that role as a force coming off the edge. We’ll get to see starting Week 1 whether he’s up for the challenge.