Texans really need a big year out of Jadeveon Clowney
(Note: This article has been updated based on the news that Jadeveon Clowney is expected to play Week 1 of the regular season.)
J.J. Watt is one of the most dominant pass-rushers we’ve seen in the PFF era. Last season Watt piled up 21 sacks along the way to a 91.9 pass-rush rating. He is capable of helping to cover up a lot of issues along a defensive front.
However, the Texans are desperate for another pass-rusher to emerge outside of Watt – specifically an edge-rushing presence. Whitney Mercilus, whom the Texans extended this offseason, was second on the team with just five sacks last season — and he produced a lowly -6.7 pass-rush grade. Jared Crick can be counted on to generate a little bit of pressure, but not much, as he had 4 sacks and a 3.0 pass rush grade last season. Second-round pick Benardrick McKinney is a good athlete, but a much better run-stopper than pass-rusher (-0.8 pass-rush rating last season at Mississippi State).
All of this is to say that the Texans really need Jadeveon Clowney to step up in his second season if the Texans are to have an effective pass-rush outside of Watt. Clowney was drafted No. 1 overall in 2014, but missed the majority of the year due to injury. His rare combination of size and athletic ability has many fans and observers convinced he’ll be a pass-rushing force once he is able to return to an NFL field fully healthy.
However, it’s worth noting that Clowney’s NFL pass-rushing ability is all just a matter of speculation at this point. There have been flashes of athletic greatness from him, but injuries have hampered his time on the field both in practice and in games, limiting his development and his production. In fact, Clowney failed to generate a positive pass-rush rating in the four regular-season games he played in last season.
So far this preseason the reports about Clowney’s health have been positive, which could be the first step in his putting together a breakout campaign. The Texans are really going to need him to live up to his No. 1 pick billing if they are to have an elite pass rush in 2015. Watt on his own is outstanding, but the team needs a second pass-rusher.