Clowney has played in and started all 10 of Houston's games, tallying three sacks and 33 tackles, already eclipsing last season's total. The run stopper is also second only to Aaron Donald in tackles for loss (12). His resurgent season had gone well under the radar before last Monday night's performance against the Raiders, whose previously assured running game was shut down almost single-handedly by Clowney.
Hyperbole or not, the league is catching on to Clowney's breakout season, including Houston's next opponent.
"I think he's a very talented player. Everyone has always known that since he's come out. Unfortunately, injuries are part of the business. But you see the way he has played this year, he can change a game in a hurry. He's a special player."
Across the line of scrimmage from Clowney on Sunday is San Diego's young hot shot with an injury history of its own: Melvin Gordon. Like Clowney, Gordon has emerged from early career irrelevance to take the league by storm in 2016; Gordon's 196-yard outing three weeks ago was the best rushing performance this season, west of Jay Ajayi, and he is fourth in the league in rushing yards (838).
How Clowney performs against Gordon, after blowing up Oakland's heralded O-line, will be a true test of his status among the league's top run-stoppers and of whether he has truly -- finally -- made the leap.