Skip to main content

Football 101: Jadeveon Clowney's impact on the run game


The Texans defense didn't have much going for it down in South Florida last Sunday and that might be an understatement. There were really two players that I thought played up to expectations and beyond. Defensive end J.J. Watt won't like the fact that I'm singling him out as having a Watt-like ball game in a loss like this but he did make a handful of impact plays in the game.

The only other player that truly stood out was a guy many didn't even think would see the field in 2015. Jadeveon Clowney, the Texans' top selection in the 2014 draft, has been a bright spot amongst some truly ugly defensive action. He registered the first sack of his career in the first half and continued to produce some "wow" moments in that Miami game.

Of course, there weren't enough to overcome Miami on that day, but it's promising, if nothing else, to see the former Gamecock star flash the assets that made him 2014's number one overall selection.

Case in point, here's a great example of how Clowney is impacting the run game when he's on the field. Late in the first half, the Dolphins had 12 personnel on the field - one running back and two tight ends, a typical running formation for them in 2015.

The play-scheme is called split zone. It's an inside zone play in which the Dolphins didn't want Clowney to run it down from behind. With quarterback Ryan Tannehill under center, there was no zone read fake with which to keep Clowney honest, if you will. As such, teams that run inside zone from under center typically zone block one way and then split block back on the edge player on the other side, hence, the name "split zone."

So, the Dolphins called split zone (inside zone to the right side) and TE Jordan Cameron was responsible for kicking out Clowney on the other side. The plan is to "split" the defense at that point and open a huge hole for runner Jonas Gray.

The play, initially, looked as if there was going to be a huge hole on the right side.

The Dolphins looked to have the play blocked well up front as they had a hat on a hat on the Texans defensive left side. But, one player eliminated any chance at success on this play.


Initially, Cameron went in motion across the formation and then returned to that side with eyes for Clowney.

Unfortunately for Cameron, it didn't go well.

Clowney completely destroyed Cameron at the point of contact and in so doing, shut down the hole that first appeared to be present.

Gray had nowhere to go and eventually darted outside, thinking he could outrun Clowney to the outside.

Clowney shut that down immediately as he discarded the block of Cameron and wrapped up Gray for a tackle for a loss.

I've talked to a number of people around the league and they're stunned at the power with which Clowney plays, especially after the microfracture surgery on his knee that ended 2014, truly, before it ever got started. This play was indicative of his full package of power, quickness, burst and explosiveness all wrapped into one.

The Texans defense needs more of this, starting on Sunday against Tennessee.

Jadeveon Clowney signed a deal with the Texans on Friday. Check out these photos from the Draft, OTAs and more.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content