Houston Texans – Jadeveon Clowney 3.0

Clowney vs. Colts

Oct 16, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Indianapolis Colts running back Frank Gore (23) runs with the ball during the third quarter as Houston Texans defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (90) defends at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Meet the new and improved Jadeveon Clowney 3.0.

In his first season as a Texan Jadeveon Clowney had sports hernia surgery, then a concussion, then micro fracture knee surgery which ended his season. He started his second season rehabbing the knee, then protected as he worked his way back into shape. Just when he started looking like the player the Texans thought they drafted he sprained his foot finishing the season on the sidelines again.

That was Jadeveon Clowney 1.0 and 2.0. Those first two versions were described by many words and phrases – “Bust”, “Soft”, “Injury Prone”, “No Motor”, “No Heart”, “Wasted Draft Choice”. Fortunately he was none of those things. What he was was injured. All the injuries were legitimate, all well chronicled, all serious. No one could have played through them, but that didn’t quiet the critics.

So now Clowney is deep into season 3. For the first time he is healthy, nicked like most players at this point of the season, but functionally healthy. The descriptors applying to Clowney 3.0 have changed along with his health. “Stud”, “Disruptive”, “Run Stopper”, “Game Changer”, “Heart of the Defense”, that’s how he is now described by opponents and many of his previous detractors.

How well has Clowney played this year? He is the defender that opposing teams game plan against. He is the lineman they run away from, often only to have the play chased down from behind. Clowney is the lineman teams chip, cut, double team and fear.

In spite of all the attention he has more than twice the tackles of any other Texans defensive lineman. He has more tackles than Antonio Smith, Joel Heath, Devon Still, Brandon Dunn, D.J. Reader and Christian Covington combined…yes, “combined”. All this despite the fact that he is undersized for the position and spent the off-season preparing to be an outside linebacker.

Clowney vs. Titans

Oct 2, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota (8) rolls out of the pocket as Houston Texans defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (90) applies pressure during the third quarter at NRG Stadium. The Texans won 27-20. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

What do his teammates say?

Clowney’s teammates quietly supported him all along although begrudgingly at times when media focused attention on him rather than players on the field. Now that he is on the field fulltime and full speed his teammates are more vocal. In fact Vince Wilfork recently uttered the unthinkable. Wilfork is quoted as describing Clowney as the best player on the Texans defense…”including J.J. Watt”.

That may be a reach, but if Clowney isn’t better than Watt he’s getting close. Clowney doesn’t provide Watt’s pass rush, but he gambles less. That makes him more reliable against the run. He is faster, maybe quicker. Watt is bigger and has more refined tools. Clowney is stronger pound for pound, but Watt is stronger overall. Both are studs.

The good news is that they are both Texans. This season, again, as with Clowney 1.0 and 2.0, one player is healthy and one injured. We can only reflect upon how good the Texans could be with both on the field. Maybe that’s in the Texans future…some day, some way, not this year, but maybe next. But daydreaming is for the offseason.

This season defense is the Texans’ strength and Jadeveon Clowney 3.0 is the defense’s strength. Let’s appreciate him for that as the Texans lead and fight to win the AFC South. Jadeveon Clowney is the real deal. The Texans defense would be lost without him.

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