When Jadeveon Clowney tries to rush his first NFL quarterback with pure speed around the edge, he won't be able to get to him. And when he tries his inside pass-rush move next, offensive tackles will be waiting for it.
That's, at least, how one NFL coach sees the future for the star defensive end from South Carolina, who might be the No. 1 overall pick of the Houston Texans. Houston sports radio host Lance Zierlein of Sports Talk 790 delivered those scouting sentiments, from an AFC offensive line coach, with two tweets (first/second) about one of the draft's most intriguing prospects.
Tough as it might be to make sense of how Clowney might struggle converting his athleticism into NFL production, Zierlein's information falls somewhat in line with the recent critique former Cleveland Browns general manager Phil Savage provided on Clowney. Savage contends that Clowney's raw, straight-line speed, while incredibly impressive, won't buy him many sacks in the NFL if he lacks the change-of-direction skills to bend around the top of the pocket.
"The question on Jadeveon Clowney in a nutshell is how much lateral change of direction does he have in space?," Savage said. "Because there are films from this past year where he missed sacks when the quarterback moved and escaped on him."
The list of NFL defensive ends who can breach the pocket around the edge but struggle to finish the play isn't a short one, but their careers usually are. If Clowney's edge rushing in the NFL is marked by lengthy streaks of almost-had-hims, you can bet offensive tackles will indeed be well-prepared for whatever inside moves Clowney tries next.