Jadeveon Clowney stood at his locker on clean out day after the loss in the playoffs to the Chiefs, answering questions as he always does from the assembled media. This time, though, was a bit different than others because Clowney didn't hold back when asked about the 2016 season.
Texans linebacker Jadeveon Clowney accepted his Ed Block Courage Award, an honor recognizing the ability to overcome great adversity, in a ceremony in Baltimore on March 12.
"I'm going to come back and dominate the league," he responded when media members wondered about next year. "I know what I can do. I'm going to come back and dominate the league next year."
Expectations tend to make someone highly polarizing and when Clowney became the number one ovearll pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, the expectations spun out of control. Microfracture knee surgery ended his rookie season and there were many that thought 2015 would be a wash too. After tireless rehab, though, he made it back for Week 1 against the Chiefs and that ramped up the expectations again. The reality of the situation was that he wasn't nearly at 100 percent and wouldn't be throughout the 2015 season due to a myriad of ailments throughout the year.
However, when I think back to the 2015 campaign with all the outstanding moments during the season, it's easy to recall some highly impressive things that Clowney did throughout the year.
Against the Colts, he reached up and snatched Frank Gore by one hand and ripped him to the ground for a tackle for loss.
*Against the Chiefs in the opening game, he took a Chiefs tight end and held him off with one arm to close down the C gap so J.J. Watt could get the tackle for loss on Jamaal Charles.
*Against the Dolphins, his first career sack in the first half was about the only positive aspect to that ugly loss in south Florida.
*Against the Patriots, he blew past the Patriots tackles twice to finish with a multi-sack game, the first of his career. Keep in mind that was only the 15th game of his career to that point. How many players throughout the league had a multi-sack game as a rookie or in his first year?
Just something to consider.
He thrived under the white hot glare of Sunday Night Football against the Patriots, but it was his performance against Buffalo the week prior that showed what the future could ultimately hold for himself and the Texans. Let's take a look at a few of those standout plays.
*:48 seconds remaining in the 1st quarter, 2nd and 1, Texans 13-yard line
*The Bills ran some zone read and split zone throughout the first quarter of the game. Down inside the red zone, Bills offensive coordinator Greg Roman called split zone. On split zone, the offensive line blocks like an inside zone play but the fullback darts back across the zone to create a split on the inside of his block. The Bills fullback was supposed to kick out Clowney.
Supposed to, being the key words. As the play developed, Clowney noticed the down block and closed quickly. He saw the mesh point, where Taylor put the ball into Shady McCoy's belly and took off like a shot. The fullback had the perfect angle on JD to kick him out...until he didn't.
Clowney was so quick into the backfield that the fullback barely got a piece of him and then he snatched McCoy down with one arm. Essentially, he held off the fullback and tackled McCoy at the same time.
The quickness and burst into the backfield was impressive, but that's not the only instance when we saw that on this day.
3:27 remaining in the 3rd quarter, 2nd and 10, Bills 10-yard line
The Texans had their base unit out on the field and Clowney was aligned as the left outside linebacker. Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor had run all over the Texans on that day with zone read and scrambles and Roman dialed up the zone slice. Taylor put the ball into his running back's belly, pulled it out and then followed his fullback to the wide side, the right side of the defense, opposite Clowney.
The fullback aimed to pin Whitney Mercilus to the inside but he did a great job disrupting that block. All the while, Clowney was sprinting from the other side of the formation. And, by sprinting, I mean he was smoking down the line of scrimmage. Eventually, Taylor was forced to try to bounce to the outside and 90 ran him down from behind for a one-yard loss.
The explosiveness out of his stance. The speed down the line of scrimmage. The relentless pursuit. It all flashed on this TFL.
13:20 remaining in the 4th quarter, 1st and 10, Bills 19-yard line
Clowney, again, was aligned on the left side of the formation, with H-back Chris Gragg off the line of scrimmage. As soon as Taylor began his drop, Clowney burst off the ball and was matched up one-on-one with Gragg.
Historically, Clowney's always been able to beat tackles and tight ends to the inside, but mostly from the right side. This time, though, he started outside and immediately ripped back inside with his left, outside arm and that's all he needed. At that point, Gragg was just along for the ride. Clowney never slowed as he sprinted into the face of Taylor.
Sack. Quickness. Burst. Disruption.
Those are all the traits that we wanted to see from Clowney and saw it in spades on that sack on Taylor. When (not if) he unleashes in 2016, think back to this game and tell everyone that you saw it coming.
Just like JD did.
OLB Jadeveon Clowney's career as a Texan and South Carolina Gamecock is profiled here in pictures.