Is one dominant defensive end enough for an NFL team?
Jadeveon Clowney doesn't think so, and he intends to convince the Houston Texans of the same. The former South Carolina defensive end spoke in-depth Wednesday with College Football 24/7 about his push to be drafted first overall by the Texans, who already have one of the NFL's dominant ends in J.J. Watt, and how he intends to do it.
Clowney said he has been running 40-yard dashes as fast as the 4.45-range in pre-combine workouts, albeit with hand-timed results, and has a goal of running 4.46 to 4.48 at the NFL Scouting Combine later this month. That would be faster than some wide receivers will run, for a 6-foot-6, 275-pound lineman. Clowney believes the double-teaming Watt drew in collecting 10.5 sacks last season for the Texans could help him in the same way that the double-teaming Clowney drew at South Carolina helped Gamecocks defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles.
"I love his game," Clowney said of Watt. "He can help me, and I can help him, hopefully. I've watched his game, in situations he gets double teams, triple teams on him, too. That could help me be a bigger factor on that defense."
If Houston indeed makes Clowney the first pick of the draft, expect Clowney's locker to be awfully close to Watt's. Texans owner Bob McNair said last month that Watt could make an ideal mentor for the draft's most promising defensive player. Clowney has said he believes he should be the top overall pick. Asked why, he was blunt:
"I feel like I have a lot to offer a team. I've got the size, the ability, I'm a great teammate," he said. "I'm bringing a lot to help a team out, and I feel like I should be that guy, hopefully."
Physically, there is little question that Clowney is a rare specimen. It's his mental makeup that NFL scouts have repeatedly said requires further examination. Among the questions Texans and other clubs will have for Clowney: His lack of sack production last season (three, down from 13.5 the previous year), and the criticism he absorbed for a perceived lack of effort at times as a junior.
"I know some teams will be asking about that. I'll answer it. Going into the season, I had a lot of high expectations of myself, more than anyone. I was trying to break the sack record. And I wanted to put it up there so high to where the next guy to come into South Carolina would be like 'Wow, this guy did this?' I wanted to put the bar high for the next guy," Clowney said. "Then we get into the season, and teams started playing me differently, double-teaming me, running away to the other side. You've got to deal with that. I still think I put my team in a lot of situations to win a lot of football games. We finished No. 4 in the country. It was a great season, and I was proud we finished No. 4, and that's what I'm going to tell them."
Last fall, Clowney conceded that he didn't work as hard as he should have during the first two years of his college career, but that he had found the proper work ethic by the time he was a junior. The absence of former Gamecocks defensive line coach Brad Lawing, Clowney said, spurred his maturity in that regard.
"He was on me so hard my first two years before he left. So hard, I would say 'Coach, why are you always on me so hard?' He'd say 'I get on guys that (aren't) doing anything. Do you want to be great?' I'd say 'You know I want to be great.' He'd say, 'Well I'm here to help you be great, but I've got to push you,'" Clowney said. "When he left, going into that next (junior) season, I was like, 'Well, coach Lawing is gone, I've got nobody to push me now.' So I pushed myself to be great, I had to learn to push myself for the first time. When he was there, I hated him for it, but when he left, I missed it. And I appreciate every bit of it."
Clowney, former Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray and Eric Ebron, one of the draft's elite tight end prospects, will be featured beginning Wednesday night in "Pressure Points", an NFL Films eight-part web series chronicling their preparation for the NFL draft and the combine, sponsored by Gillette deodorant.
"People are going to get a good look at what we've been going through," Clowney said.
Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter @ChaseGoodbread.