Voted 49th overall by his peers for the NFL Top 100 list for his performance last season, Jadeveon Clowney is going back to work to build on a strong 2016 when he was a major contributor to the top defense in the NFL. Expectations for the defense are rising heading into 2017 with a new defensive coordinator plus J.J. Watt returning from a back injury to join Clowney and Whitney Mercilus in what could be the top pass rushing trio in the NFL.
Clowney knows the defense is more than just Watt and him, despite the spotlight typically focused on duo, who are widely regarded as two of the best in the league. Clowney is quick point to Mercilus and the player he dubs the defense's “secret weapon” in D.J. Reader.
“No, not just us,” Clowney said of Watt and himself within the entire defensive unit. “We got a lot of great players on our defense, up front anyways, with Whitney (Mercilus) and D.J. Reader, who stepped in last year and played big minutes. I feel like we keep our secondary good and everybody does stay healthy, we’re going to big things again like rank one again. So, we just have to come out here and compete every day and come to work.”
Health has always been the questions with Clowney. Defensive line coach Anthony Weaver remarked on the jump in production for Clowney which correlated with his health.
“It’s been tremendous, and we’re still just scratching the tip of the iceberg,” Weaver said of Clowney. “He has put in the work, he’s dedicated to his teammates, and I’m just excited to see where he goes from here.”
Clowney is trying to immerse himself in the defense and be versatile enough to continue building off of his 2016 season. Last season saw Clowney playing inside, off the edge, or in the middle of the Texans defense, not giving offenses a chance to get comfortable where he aligned. Clowney wants to continue being that player for the defense and seeks to help the entire defense grow heading into 2017.
“Right now, I’m just playing everything. They got me moving all over the field,” Clowney said of his fit on the defense. “I love what I’m doing right now. I love the schemes we got. They’re putting all the defenses together really good for us. They’re moving us around. Nobody is standing still, so that’s a good thing. Knowing the defense will make it a lot better so we really move on our own and move to certain spots that we know. It’s just basically game planning, really. That’s why I do that.”
The Texans have played it smart with Clowney and many of their veterans this off-season, giving them time off of their feet, allowing then to simply take in practice. Clowney worked the final days of mandatory mini-camp with the defense and his health, minus getting sick for a short stretch, was not a concern. The Texans know they have to keep Clowney, Watt, and Mercilus healthy for the long haul and work was limited as a whole for the group.
“It’s been great,” Clowney said of the early work this spring with his teammates. “We still get back to work. Still got to try to get to where we want to get: farther in the playoffs and try to win a Super Bowl. That’s our goal.”
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