The play above isn’t the most awe-inspiring piece of defensive line play you’ll ever see, but given how quiet the start of former No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney’s career has been, you’ll have to forgive any Texans fans who want to make a big deal out of it this morning.
It’s a nice play, to be sure, and it directly preceded one in which Clowney ripped right past his blocker and hit Colts quarterback Matt Hasselbeck just as the ball was thrown. But when Clowney, who was basically a demigod at the college level, was taken first overall in the 2014 draft, people were expecting a lot more than a guy who can make a few nice plays. Nine games into his NFL career, Clowney has 19 tackles and zero sacks.
It’s almost impossible to believe that a guy with Clowney’s abilities hasn’t yet managed to sack the quarterback with J.J. Watt soaking up blockers and attention on the other side of the line. But much of Clowney’s lack of production can certainly be blamed on the injuries he’s suffered—he had three surgeries, including a microfracture procedure on his right knee, over the course of six months—which have undoubtedly robbed him of some of his explosiveness.
In this context, plays like the one above can offer real reasons to be hopeful. This week, the Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore spoke to a coach whose team already faced the Texans this year, and he sees Clowney trending upward:
“For me, it’s just experience” that Clowney needs, the head coach said. “If he gets healthier and healthier and trusts that knee more and more – I mean, we saw it. We saw the flashes. He was a presence in our game. He’s not quite at J.J.’s level yet, but I just think it’s experience and confidence in that knee.”
Clowney finished last night’s game with two tackles and one hit on the quarterback, and spent a good chunk of the second half on the sideline. For now, all Texans fans have to cling to is the highlight above, and the hope that someday, hopefully sooner rather than later, the sacks will come.