The NFL Draft has been a mixed bag for the Houston Texans over the past decade or so, but generally speaking, one of the things they've done pretty well is select productive NFL players in the first round, ranging from workmanlike starters (Kareem Jackson, Whitney Mercilus) to Pro Bowlers (Duane Brown, DeAndre Hopkins) to the best defensive player on the planet, when healthy (you know who).
However, the one pick that had more emotion and debate attached to it, and rightfully so, was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 draft. With a new coaching staff and a glaring need at quarterback (among many glaring needs), there were spirited discussions on talk radio as to what Rick Smith and Bill O'Brien should do with that pick. After sifting through the various signal callers and other high-level prospects, like Khalil Mack, the Texans settled on the once-in-a-generation physical talent of South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
Since that day, it's been a long two-plus seasons for Clowney and Texans fans, who have waited patiently for this...
Instead, injuries wiped out Clowney's rookie season and seriously affected his second year, too. However, in this third season, ironically without the opposition's attention drawn to Watt, who's been injured most of the season himself, Clowney has finally arrived, and in the past two weeks, against the Colts and Jaguars, he's been the best player on the field.
It's been a long time coming, but we can finally do a post where we recap an otherworldly performance from 2014's top overall pick. Let's relive the magic with these five plays from the Texans' 21-20 win over Jacksonville on Sunday...
3rd and 3, JAX 17 yard line
6:20 to go, 1st quarter
PLAY: Blake Bortles sacked for 8 yard loss
On Sunday, with Whitney Mercilus out, Clowney was playing a lot more outside linebacker and 4-3 defensive end than he has all season. It suits him well, especially on these twist plays. Watch Antonio Smith and Brennan Scarlett angle to the right and watch Clowney get from 0 to 60 in about a hundredth of a second. There are twist plays, and then there are twist plays that unleash a healthy Jadeveon Clowney...
Good cop and bad cop left for the day... Jadeveon Clowney is a different kind of cop .... pic.twitter.com/gLlRq1ajdb— Sean Pendergast (@SeanTPendergast) December 19, 2016
1st and 10, HOU 13 yard line
0:31 to go, 1st quarter
PLAY: Blake Bortles stuffed for 6 yard loss on read option
Now, this is kind of fun...watch here on this first play as Clowney takes a risk and dives inside, allowing Chris Ivory the entire edge and a monster gain...
In the spirit of balanced analysis, Clowney guesses wrong here and gives up a monster gain. One of scant few bad plays by him ... pic.twitter.com/GmOzjVUBgD— Sean Pendergast (@SeanTPendergast) December 19, 2016
Not good. If Clowney gets called out in film study, this play will be in the medley. (To be clear, the "calling out Clowney" medley doesn't last very long. It's more like one refrain of one song rather than multiple songs.)
Now, watch literally four plays later as Clowney, like a cyborg that has become self-aware, stays at home and manages to murder Blake Bortles in the process...
....but then four plays later, Clowney didn't give up the edge. Instead, he killed a man... a man named Bortles... pic.twitter.com/vDtifnAy5x— Sean Pendergast (@SeanTPendergast) December 19, 2016
3rd and 6, HOU 21 yard line
12:11 to go, 2nd quarter
PLAY: Blake Bortles sacked for 1 yard loss by Bernardrick McKinney
This sack was credited to McKinney, who tripped up Bortles on the play, but McKinney should shell out partial credit to Clowney, who once again blew up the pocket on one of those twist plays. Clowney was the single biggest reason the Texans only trailed 6-0, not 14-0, after the first two Jaguar scoring drives.
I gave Clowney 0.43 of a sack on this play. Not quite half, but he mattered greatly ... pic.twitter.com/a4N2tmFLyx— Sean Pendergast (@SeanTPendergast) December 19, 2016
2 and goal, HOU 1 yard line
8:39 to go, 2nd quarter
PLAY: Blake Bortles scrambles for one-yard touchdown (but dear God, the carnage)
Eventually, the Jags offense got into the end zone, following Brock Osweiler's second interception of the day. Bortles gets into the end zone here, but it's hard not to feel good about where Clowney is physically (a RELEVANT nuance to all of the Texans' fortunes this season and going forward) in watching a 300-pound man bounce off of him like a dodgeball... #RIPJoshWells
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Jags score touchdown here but it cost them a life. RIP that tackle blocking Clowney. Let the world know Josh Wells' story. pic.twitter.com/6sgSuinvMq— Sean Pendergast (@SeanTPendergast) December 19, 2016
2nd and 21, JAX 11 yard line
4:21 to go, 3rd quarter
PLAY: Blake Bortles pass batted down by Clowney
Finally, here is Clowney showing off what a great teammate he is, authoring a physical homage to his injured colleague, J.J. Watt, by swatting one of Bortles's passes away like a mosquito...
I think Clowney even points over to Watt after this batted ball. This was Clowney's Christmas gift to JJ. VERY thoughtful. pic.twitter.com/5f6nRLjWZZ— Sean Pendergast (@SeanTPendergast) December 19, 2016
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