The hardline approach from the Houston Texans and Bill O’Brien is providing dividends for the season Jadeveon Clowney is having in 2016. When considering the presence that was felt in the wildcard round against the Oakland Raiders, Clowney is finally gaining attention for his play on the field.
Clowney’s ascension in the NFL started in 2015 but most wanted to pay attention to his injuries keeping him off the field despite having missed just 3 games. Clowney was showing flashes of what he was capable of and that capability is now coming to fruition this season.
The first NFL draft selection of the O’Brien era, the head coach himself took a strong approach to ensuring Clowney could attain his potential as a player.
"Personally, I’ve been hard on JD at times when he was a younger player in his first and second year, only for the reason that I just knew what he could be,” explained O’Brien of Clowney. "Look, I think that I have respect for him and he has respect for me, but it hasn’t always been a bed of roses.”
Clowney has been upfront about his situation with he Texans, knowing he just had to get healthy to make a difference for the defense. The added pressure of being the 1st overall selection and numerous amounts of injuries in year one put many questions on what he would be.
“I didn’t care,” said Clowney of the people that doubted his abilities. “The guys in the locker room have seen me doing it all season. They’re like, ‘Just keep making plays for us and just keep trying to put us in situations to win games. Just try to go out there and makes plays.'”
Clowney, in the tough times, depended on the team’s veterans to help his game on and off the field, most notably Vince Wilfork and Johnathan Joseph. Two of the most respected veterans with the Texans who have played at high levels for majority of their career.
Wilfork remembers on his trip to Houston to potentially signing his free agent deal, seeing Clowney rehabbing from his knee injury at the facility. The organization wanted Clowney to use Wilfork as a outlet of knowledge but Wilfork had to make sure that Clowney’s expectations of himself lined up before he signed on the dotted line.
“From Day 1, before I even signed I walked into the training room and he was in there doing rehab and I said, ‘I’m not coming here unless you are committed to being the best,’” expaleind Wilfork. “He said, ‘I am.’ I said, ‘OK,’ and then I signed here. I held him accountable. The biggest thing with JD is he grew up and matured. He understood what it means to be a professional. You come to work as a professional.”
“On the field, Vince (Wilfork) has taught me so much. Even when I moved inside to play after being outside. He’s a smart player. One of the smartest defensive players I think I’ve played with. He knows what’s going on,” Clowney explained. “He knows what to look for when he sees certain formations. To have him in the room with me and learning from him, it’s big.”
Clowney continued, “Vince helps me on the field, and Johnathan Joseph just stays on me all the time about every little thing. He’s like a big brother to me. Those two right there are on me all the time.”
That tough love from Wilfork, Joseph, and O’Brien have helped one of the team’s most talented players climb closer to his potential. Now, Pro Bowl and All-Pro selection Clowney has turned many eyes to the field to see what he is going to do next as a player.
“I think that he just has done a nice job of being healthy and taking care of his body and being able to be out there at practice,“ said O’Brien of Clowney. “That’s why he’s playing the way he’s playing.”
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