Yesterday, following Texans practice, the media met with arguably the three most important members of the Texans defense — J.J. Watt, Vince Wilfork and Jadeveon Clowney. (Brian Cushing and a few members of the secondary may do the arguing.)
Watt gave us the requisite Wednesday review of the previous night's Hard Knocks episode, including a detailed overview of his policy on napping in the workplace. Wilfork said that the Texans have an unbelievable defense "on paper." Clowney, meanwhile, did what he's been doing since he spoke to the media for the first time in months last Monday and made us all feel cautiously optimistic that he is fully recovered from the knee surgery that derailed his rookie year.
In fact, it was earlier in yesterday's media session that Texans head coach Bill O'Brien informed the throng of reporters that last season's No. 1 overall pick is indeed tracking to be ready for the season opener at NRG Stadium on September 13 against the Kansas City Chiefs. This enthused the media no end:
My timeline was pretty excited about Clowney's return yesterday .. pic.twitter.com/Z1zWqjiV5G— Sean Pendergast (@SeanTPendergast) August 27, 2015
Ironically, it was Clowney who moments later found out from the assembled media what his head coach had stated about his medical status and forecast for return to action, which drew mild surprise and an actual mildly shocked whistle from the lips of Clowney:
I call this ironic because one of Clowney's calling cards last season was his proclivity to over-inform the media on the status of his injuries and the likelihood of his being able to play. So forthcoming and inadvertently insightful was Clowney on his injuries that he drew the nickname of "Dr. Clowney" from his head coach, so for that same head coach to actually optimistically reveal that Clowney is on track for September 13 was a bit surprising to everyone, not the least of whom was Clowney himself.
Even if it's merely in a situational pass rushing role, any inclusion of Clowney is great news for Texans fans. Even without him, the addition of Wilfork, the return to full health for Cushing and the rapid growth of first-round rookie cornerback Kevin Johnson, all thrown into the World of Watt, should make this a top 10 defense. A healthy Clowney ratchets up the potential from "good" to "special."
REPORT: McKinney Has Sprained MCL
One of the few spots on the Texans defense in which they haven't invested a first-round pick and/or big free agency dollars over the past few years is the second inside linebacker spot alongside Cushing. Instead, they moved up in the second round of the 2015 draft to nab Mississippi State inside linebacker Bernardrick McKinney. McKinney had shown some flashes of growth in the preseason, amid a few noticeable lumps. (He allowed the 49ers' only touchdown in the preseason opener.)
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Well, it looks as if he is going to have to wait a short while longer before he can continue the learning process. According to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle, McKinney is dealing with a mildly sprained MCL:
Texans rookie inside linebacker Benardrick McKinney has a mildly sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee, according to sources with knowledge of the situation not authorized to speak publicly.
The second-round draft pick from Mississippi State tweaked his knee against the Broncos, leaving the game to have it examined before returning. McKinney hasn’t practiced this week, and Texans coach Bill O’Brien was noncommittal on whether he’ll return in time for a preseason finale against the Dallas Cowboys next week.
The former All-Southeastern Conference and All-American selection isn’t expected to be sidelined for long or require surgery, barring a setback, as a minor knee sprain typically heals on its own with a regimen of rest and rehabilitation.
“I think he’s doing okay,” O’Brien said. “I think he’s really working hard to get back. I don’t know if he’ll be back for the Dallas game, but I know he wants to get back. He’s chomping at the bit to be back and I think he’s doing better.”
The Texans play their third preseason game of 2015 in New Orleans against the Saints on Sunday at 3 p.m.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast.