Jadeveon Clowney helping fuel Houston’s playoff bid

The Texans are in the mix for an AFC South title. Sam Monson explains how pass-rusher Jadeveon Clowney is playing a key role.

| 11 months ago
(AP Photo/Bob Leverone)

(AP Photo/Bob Leverone)

Jadeveon Clowney helping fuel Houston’s playoff bid

Don’t look now, but the Houston Texans are tied for the lead of the AFC South with the Indianapolis Colts. A division that looked farcical just a couple of weeks back has collected itself a few wins and now has three teams sitting within a game of first place, and only one of those three has a losing record.

OK, none of those teams are above .500, but from where they were a few weeks back, that looks significantly more impressive.

The Texans are now on a three-game win streak, and that includes snapping the Bengals’ undefeated streak last week on Monday Night Football.

Brian Hoyer missed this game due to concussions, so T.J. Yates once again became the unlikely hero in Houston, and the Texans as a roster have now climbed into the top half of PFF’s team rankings at 13th.

J.J. Watt continues to be J.J. Watt, including posting far and away the top grade this week among 3-4 defensive ends (only the Rams’ Aaron Donald out-graded him among interior defenders), but Jadeveon Clowney is quietly beginning to emerge as the player the Texans thought he could be when they drafted him No. 1 overall in the 2014 draft.

Clowney has been steadily impressive as a run defender all season, with the exception of the occasional hiccup when he goes AWOL and loses contain, but the Jets game marked the first real sighting of Clowney as a pass-rushing force, and that does not bode well for opposing offenses.

The Texans have long had a dream scenario of teams trying to defend both Watt and Clowney in passing situations, whether they align side by side or come from different sides of the line. The Jets got to experience the first act of that play, and it didn’t end well for them. Clowney has always had immense natural athleticism and physical ability, but he hasn’t shown a whole host of technique to go along with that.

In this game, however, we started to see Clowney’s version of Watt’s perfected swim move off the line, leaving offensive linemen grasping at air and trying to recover in his wake.

Take a look at one example:


One benefit to both Watt and Clowney is that they have the physical ability to play both inside and out, and both sides of the line. This makes game-planning for either one of them difficult, let alone the prospect of both of them at the same time. It’s been a while coming, but we might be starting to see the rewards of the gamble Houston made when they took Clowney with the first pick of the draft. It just might be enough to take them to the playoffs.

| Senior Analyst

Sam is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus, as well as a contributor to ESPN.

  • NFL Buddha

    Hoyer is a much better Quarterback than most people give him credit for. Last year however he appeared to crumble when the playoff race got real. Houston has much better coaching than Cleveland so hopefully he will instead blossom this season, toughened by what he learned last season. Time will tell. Deandre Hopkins could very well be the finest receiver in the AFC, based on how he played against its top corner, Revis. Before getting too excited about Houston’s offensive potential, bear in mind that the Jets just got beaten by Tyrod.

  • bhsman

    Clowney liked using an arm-over/swim move in college (though it was used ineffectually at times), but being able to work alongside Watt may have given him insight to improve it. With his long arms, he could be deadly with it.

  • R.c. Henry

    It’s sad that you beat writers would make stupid articles like this. Clowney has absolutely nothing to do with the 3 game winning streak, in fact when Clowney is hurt the defense plays better. The Texans drafted this guy to get to the qb, not stop the run and he only have 1 1/2 sacks. A wasted pick so far.

    • Cheo Trawford

      Heh. Shows what you know.

    • Junior Taylor

      U should know by now that sacks don’t tell the whole story when it comes to whether or not a pass rusher is effective. Getting pressure on the QB and stymieing the run is just as important, Clowney has shown he is capable of doing both when healthy .

    • crashby89

      It’s sad when people cant realize there is more to playing any position than 1 single stat.