Jadeveon Clowney now has a reason for his poor performance last season at South Carolina. The No. 1 overall pick of the Houston Texans finished his last collegiate season with 40 tackles and three sacks. This was a disappointing performance after a monstrous 54 tackles and 13 sacks the season before.
Most attributed Clowney's decline to offenses game-planning around him or a lack of effort, but news has surfaced that Clowney may have been dealing with a sports hernia. The injury was discovered and diagnosed by the Texans' doctors during OTAs.
Clowney has now had surgery and is expected to be 100 percent healthy by the time the season starts, but there is no clear answer as to when the injury actually occurred. According Mike Florio of NBC Sports, Texans head coach Bill O'Brien suggested that the injury occurred recently.
"I don’t think it was too long," O'Brien said. "I think it wasn’t too long, but again you know, we looked at it as let’s take care of it now and he will be ready to go for training camp. We’re looking forward to seeing him in training camp."
Clowney and his agent, Bus Cook, are claiming that the injury may have occurred as far back as last season, and that he was definitely dealing with it during his pro day. According to Tania Ganguli of ESPN, Clowney knew he was injured, but he thought it was a groin injury.
"He thought about not participating in his pro day but went ahead anyway, and what a performance," Cook said.
Clowney ran a 4.4-4.5 with a sports hernia? That's utterly ridiculous...— DH (@NumeroUnoSoLive) July 3, 2014
No matter when Clowney sustained the injury, it shouldn't be used as a complete pass for his lack of production last season.
There is no doubt that Clowney received a much larger amount of attention from offenses last year than he had in previous seasons at South Carolina. There was bound to be some drop-off in his numbers when he was being double-teamed on practically every play.
However, the injury could explain what seemed to be a lack of effort from Clowney throughout the season. There were many times when Clowney appeared to take plays off. If he was dealing with a groin injury of some kind, it would be a positive sign for the Texans as opposed to the alternative explanation: laziness.
The Texans don't expect the injury, alleged laziness or anything else will prevent Clowney from becoming an instant playmaker on defense. He has been moved from defensive end to outside linebacker in hopes of capitalizing on his pass-rushing abilities in the Texans' 3-4 scheme.
While he'll be facing superior pass-blockers in the NFL, he won't be seeing two of them on every play like he did at South Carolina. Playing with guys like J.J. Watt and Brian Cushing ensure that. If Clowney is healthy and motivated, there is no reason to expect he won't be a force rushing quarterbacks off the edge.
According to Jarrett Bell of USA Today, Clowney has heard the criticism and is looking to use it and his time rehabilitating to fuel himself for the upcoming season.
I figure I've got some extra motivation now. I could've done anything I wanted this next month, if I hadn't gotten hurt. No telling how I would've acted if I had gone home. But this kind of brought me back. They always talk about nothing is set in stone. Well, you really see the light. I just need to get healthy so I can ball out.