When the Cleveland Browns selected defensive end Jadeveon Clowney with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, there was a great deal of excitement in Cleveland. For a team that has never had a top-10 pick in the draft, the pick seemed like a final shot in the arm in the face of a franchise that has been struggling for years.
The Cleveland Browns have been in a dire state for a long time now, and if we look at the NFL as a whole it’s hard to ignore the trend. It’s been 14 years since the Browns won a playoff game, which was the 1999 AFC Wildcard game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. During that time the Browns have had 4 coaches come and go, and the only player that has been drafted in the first round (Weeden) is now out of the NFL. Nowadays the Browns seem to be more of a team of misfits than a well-rounded group of players.
The NFL draft is always a busy time for NFL fans, especially when it comes to players who were once thought to be potential future stars. For the Cleveland Browns, that seems to be at least one of the most talented players in the upcoming 2016 draft class, as they are now in the process of trading away the number one overall pick for a number of picks including a 4th round pick this year.
With the No. 1 overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Cleveland Browns made a no-brainer decision to choose Myles Garrett. With the exception of his helmet-swinging incident against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the physically talented defensive end has been a home-run pick by a team that is notorious for making big draft day errors. Of course, the Browns added a second athletic, big-name pass rusher to their roster this summer when they signed Jadeveon Clowney to a one-year deal.
Clowney, unlike Garrett, hasn’t evolved into a top-tier sack artist after being selected first overall in 2014. The Browns, on the other hand, clearly think the 6-foot-5, 255-pounder has what it takes to turn their defense into a championship contender.
Clowney’s latest remarks should make Cleveland supporters both nervous and excited about his future with the AFC North team. The 28-year-old displayed unexpected humility by giving a brutally honest self-evaluation. At the same time, Clowney emphasized how dangerous it is for the Browns to take a chance on a guy who has a history of falling short of expectations in his NFL career.
Cleveland has a great chance for Jadeveon Clowney to revive his career.
Clowney was one of the most highly touted defensive prospects of all time when he joined the NFL in 2014. He only played four games as a rookie due to a torn meniscus. He is a long-limbed, explosive defensive end with receiver-like speed and a propensity for making highlight-reel plays. After having microfracture surgery, he went on to start 53 games for a Houston club that consistently missed the playoffs over the following four years. Despite being named to the Pro Bowl in each of his last three seasons with the Texans, Clowney only has 29 sacks in 62 games.
The excellent edge defender was dealt to the Seattle Seahawks because Houston refused to match his asking price. Clowney’s transfer to the NFC West gave him the opportunity to join a much stronger club. While he had some big plays, such as four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and a pick-six, the former SEC standout only had three sacks and 13 quarterback hits. (Not exactly eye-popping numbers for someone touted as a great pass rusher.)
Clowney, on the other hand, has missed three games due to hip and core ailments.
He signed a free-agent deal with the Tennessee Titans after a one-year stay with the Seahawks. Clowney, on the other hand, didn’t come close to earning the $11.5 million guaranteed in his one-year contract. In the eight games he played before being placed on injured reserve due to a knee injury, he didn’t have a single sack.
Clowney didn’t have a very strong free-agent market this spring, which comes as no surprise. Cleveland, on the other hand, took a chance on the experienced defensive end (for $7 million guaranteed). With Garrett expected to square up opposite him, the eighth-year veteran has a great chance to put up huge numbers. Clowney could have plenty of one-on-one pass-rush chances with defenses focused on stopping his All-Pro teammate. With his financial future on the line, he has every incentive to remind everyone why he was drafted first overall in 2014.
During a Cleveland Browns minicamp session, Jadeveon Clowney takes a knee on the sideline. | Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images
When the Browns announced the signing of Clowney, there were likely conflicting reactions. On the one hand, it’s easy to be enthralled by the prospect of a Garrett-Clowney pairing. However, considering his durability issues and lackluster pass-rush numbers, the move seems to be doomed to fail.
Clowney, ironically, said something during his Wednesday news conference that should make Browns fans both thrilled and nervous about his future.
He told reporters, “I don’t believe I’ve achieved my potential.” “Every time I get underway, something happens to me and I get hurt.” I’ve slowed down and taken some time off. This year, I’m hoping to keep climbing and improving.”
“I’m just trying to create plays, be flashy,” Clowney said. Demonstrate to those folks that I’m still the same person.”
If you’re Cleveland, the fact that he doesn’t believe he’s achieved his full potential is clearly a positive thing. After all, he’s never had a season with more than ten sacks in his NFL career. With the Texans, though, Clowney excelled in setting the edge and making plays against the run. And he’s showed glimpses of pass-rush ferocity as well as the ability to disrupt. His willingness to “create plays” and “be showy” is a good indication for a Browns defense that has a lot of promise.
However, based on what else Clowney said, Cleveland fans should be concerned about what is next.
Injuries have been a major factor in Clowney’s career. As a result, when it came to keeping healthy, he talked from personal experience.
Clowney said, “When you’re healthy, you have a lot of fun.” “It’s not enjoyable going out there when you’ve been playing for seven years and dealing with injuries for seven years, but when you take care of your body, you’re in excellent condition and you know what you love.”
While Clowney said that he is in a good mood right now, his frank admission that he isn’t having fun should raise red flags. After all, he’s injured almost every year — Clowney has only played all 16 games once — so the chances of his making it through the season without a setback seem small.
And that’s probably putting it mildly.
Will he suddenly become an issue if he gets hurt? Will an injury have an impact on how he conducts himself on the field and in practice? Clowney seems to be a bad chance to work out for the Browns, given his propensity to play games and not go after the quarterback as he did in college.
Perhaps he’ll prove everyone incorrect by staying healthy and establishing himself as a dominating force with perhaps the greatest pass rusher in the game. Cleveland will have a championship-caliber defense to go along with an explosive offense if this happens.
The chances of that occurring, on the other hand, seem to be about as good as Baker Mayfield keeping his mouth shut on the field.
Pro Football Reference provided all statistics.
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