Mike Freeman's 10-Point Stance: Jadeveon Clowney Is NFL's Most Underrated Star

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterNovember 1, 2017

Houston Texans outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney during an NFL football game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017. (Winslow Townson/AP Images for Panini)
Winslow Townson/Associated Press

The Texans finally are seeing how good Jadeveon Clowney can be, the logic behind the Jimmy Garoppolo trade and the lack of logic behind the Colts' treatment of Andrew Luck. All that and more in this week's 10-Point Stance.


1. Jadeveon Clowney Becoming the Star We Thought He'd Be

Jadeveon Clowney remembers his rookie year, in 2014, when he tore his meniscus, and later had microfracture surgery. That first season lasted one full quarter. 

Clowney was asked to reflect on the start to his NFL career after a Sunday this season that saw him make yet another spectacular play that caused the eyes of everyone who saw it to virtually pop out of their heads.

"I never had any doubts about myself," Clowney told B/R, "but I know some people had doubts about me. I don't think they do anymore."

Now, four years into his career, we are watching Clowney develop into maybe the best defensive player in the sport. He's not the only candidate, but there's little doubt he belongs in the conversation.

Clowney has also emerged as a leader in the locker room. He was a key component in the team's decision-making process on how to handle the ugly comments from owner Bob McNair, who reportedly referred to players as "inmates" when discussing how to address the anthem issue. Most of the Texans players took a knee in protest during the anthem.

After most of the Texans players knelt in protest of their owner's comments during the anthem last week in Seattle, I asked Clowney if he felt things had been resolved. "I don't think so," Clowney said. "I'd say no."

His dressing as an inmate at a Halloween party earlier this week would seem to speak to that point, although Clowney told the Houston Chronicle (via Pro Football Talk) that he was not trying to send a message to the Texans owner.

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Against the Seahawks, Clowney illustrated in one play how he has progressed from early disappointment into the near-unstoppable force he was expected to be when he left college and was drafted first overall in 2014.

On the play, Seahawks tight end Luke Willson totally whiffed on trying to block Clowney. (In watching film of Clowney this season, that's not totally unusual. Some players, frankly, just don't want to take him on.)

Clowney then headed for the fullback, and utterly atomized him (via The State). It's the kind of thing you almost never see in the NFL230-pound fullbacks being tossed back several yards into the running back. There was a sort of shock that ran through the stadium when it happened.

Did I just see what I saw?

It was reminiscent of when Clowney committed something akin to football homicide while he was at South Carolina

"I've got great teammates around me, and we all work together to try and make our defense the best it can be," Clowney said. "I've been able to learn and grow and get better."

He's humble. He's also destroying offenses in the same way J.J. Watt would be if he were healthy.

What's most interesting about watching Clowney is how his dominance progressed slowly, at first, before moving ahead over the last season-and-a-half at transwarp velocity. In some ways, he's matched, or possibly even eclipsed, the remarkable play of Watt.

Minus the commercial success of his more famous teammate, it's easy to overlook how much of a presence Clowney has become. But a presence he has become, and a dominant one at that.


2. Why Did Belichick Really Trade Jimmy G?

Winslow Townson/Associated Press

The Patriots surprised many around the NFL in trading backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers for a second-round pick in 2018. One Patriots source said the reasons why are clear:

First, Bill Belichick believes that Tom Brady can play another two or three years, at least, at a Brady-like level.

Second, New England couldn't sign him to a long-term deal. According to the source, the two sides were "extremely far apart."

And third, Belichick can take that pick, package it and move up to take a quarterback to develop for the year 2075, when Brady retires.

This move was typical Belichick. Don't want to sign a long-term deal? Don't want to do it The Patriot Way? See ya, wouldn't want to be ya.

As smart as Belichick is, this is still a massive gamble. Players get hurt, even legends like Brady, and with no reliable backup, the Pats are one injury away from disaster this season.


3. Like It or Not, Russell Wilson Is a One-Man Show

Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

I often get into arguments with, um, lesser-minded folks on the Twitter machine about Russell Wilson. To me, Wilson is underrated and one of the best quarterbacks of his generation, a future Hall of Famer. The dummies say he's overrated. But again, they're not as sharp as most.

Critics have long howled that Wilson has been carried by his defense and running game. There is some truth to that, but it obfuscates the fact that sometimes he's carried them, like he did Sunday against Houston.

The Seahawks generated 485 total yards against the Texans. Wilson accounted for 482 of them through passing or running himself and finished the game with a 123.2 quarterback rating.

Seahawks running back Eddie Lacy had six carries for zero yards, while Thomas Rawls had six carries for minus-one yard.

It was mostly a one-man offensive show and it happens far more than his detractors want to admit. 

"I've always said he is so good at getting out of trouble in the times the protection was, let's just say, less than adequate," said former NFL quarterback Rich Gannon on CBS Sports Network's NFL Monday QB. "And at times it seemed like he had eyes on the back of his head. He's amazing. The way he is able to extend plays. The ability to throw the ball so accurately on the move outside the tackle box. And he refused to lose [Sunday]. That's an impressive performance from Russell Wilson. Especially after he threw that late interception against the Texans."

And now that Wilson will have Pro Bowl tackle Duane Brown in front of him, after being traded by Houston, we might even see a better Wilson.


4. Mitchell Trubisky Is in a Tough Spot

Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

Gannon also opined on Bears rookie QB Mitchell Trubisky, as did his show teammate Boomer Esiason. Both hit on important points. Gannon argued that Trubisky isn't ready yet, and Esiason said coach John Fox may be the wrong guy for Trubisky.

"He's not ready to play and the Bears know it," Gannon said. "I think [the Bears] are trying to protect him as much as they possibly can with the game plan and play calls. They try to be conservative and they should be…It's a very conservative approach with a young quarterback who's not ready for prime time."

Added Esiason: "I don't necessarily know that this is the coaching staff or the offense that is going to get the most out of him. This is a defense-first coach (Fox). I never like that. I always want to see an offensive coach, much like Sean McVay, handling a high draft pick, much like Jared Goff in L.A."


5. Is Derek Carr Overrated?

Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

Has the Raiders quarterback not gotten his fair share of the blame for Oakland's struggles of late? NBC's Rodney Harrison thinks so, and from what I hear around the league and in locker rooms, he isn't alone.

"I don't put it all on [Carr], but he is a big problem because he has been so inconsistent," Harrison said on NBC. "One week he looks like Aaron Rodgers, the next week he looks like an average quarterback…When I think about Carr, he is the one guy we always seem to give a free pass to. We always criticize or compliment all of the other quarterbacks. Why do we give him a free pass? What has he done so spectacular in this league? I just think he is overrated. He is so inconsistent. One week he looks unbelievable, the next week he throws two interceptions. In order for them to get to that next level, he has got to play more consistent."


6. Andrew Luck Deserves Better

AJ Mast/Associated Press

It seems like no one knows when Andrew Luck will play again, including the Colts, who have botched the Luck era in multiple ways.

They never placed an emphasis on protecting him by drafting, or signing, offensive linemen to keep their franchise QB from having his body smashed to pieces.

Now they look even more incompetent by clumsily cloaking his current injury status in secrecy. What exactly is wrong with Luck? Why isn't he playing? Why not discuss it? Is their plan not to play him this season? Are they hiding Luck injury news now? Are they afraid he won't ever play again?

It's difficult to find a situation more screwed up by a franchise, from start to finish, than the Colts and Luck.

Even the Browns aren't this inept.

OK, that's a stretch, but you get me.


7. A Billion Dollars Doesn't Buy What It Used to

Mike Stewart/Associated Press

Atlanta's new Mercedes-Benz Stadium cost about $1.6 billion. That's billion. With a "b."

It's the Falcons' new home, and this past weekend, according to Tim Tucker of the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, it leaked like a homemade shack in a rainstorm. 

Sure, that may have been embarrassing for the Falcons, but it's also a little bit funny that even a billion-dollar structure can have its flaws.


8. Business Decision

NFL players are among the most courageous humans on the planet. They have to be to subject themselves to forces that amount to a car crash on almost every play. That's why it's so noticeable when you see a player purposefully avoid contact.

Kansas City's outstanding defensive back Marcus Peters did just that against the Broncos on Monday night:

It's what those in the NFL call a business decision. You see quarterbacks make them after they throw an interception, giving a half-assed effort trying to chase down the interceptor. It's rare for any other position to do it.

This isn't to pick on Peters. This is just to show the almost man-bites-dog moment in football.


9. Don't Count out Roger Goodell Just Yet

Matt Dunham/Associated Press

It's no secret that Jerry Jones, the most powerful owner in maybe all of sports, isn't a huge fan of Roger Goodell's right now. Jones is clashing with Goodell over the handling of Ezekiel Elliott and his six-game punishment for domestic violence. Trust me on this. There is great tension between the two.

This has all led to a question: Could Jones lead a revolt against Goodell, and not just stop Goodell from getting a new contract, but oust Goodell altogether?

Probably not. (Emphasis on probably.) Jones is a formidable adversary, but remember something important—Goodell has allies among the owners. Not as many as he once did, and the relationship between Goodell and those allies isn't unbreakable, but Goodell has friends.

And that means he isn't going anywhere, anytime soon.



10. Football Is Scary, Part 1 Cabillion

TAMPA, FL - NOVEMBER 13: Jerrell Freeman #50 of the Chicago Bears looks on during the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium on November 13, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. The Bucs defeated the Bears 36-10. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Ima
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Veteran Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman has a long backstory to his suspensions for PED use, the latest of which was handed down Monday. The scariest part of it is something he posted about memory loss and taking pills as a way to deal with his problems. It's yet another example of how incredibly dangerous the sport we love is.


Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.


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