It's only two preseason games, but so far Jadeveon Clowney has made an instant impact for the Houston Texans. Clowney again played two series, this time doing so without J.J. Watt, who sat out Houston's 32-7 win over the Atlanta Falcons. Clowney recorded a sack of Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and had a vicious takedown of Falcons running back Antone Smith in the backfield for a tackle for loss.
Clowney's speed was on display on both plays. He beat pulling guard Justin Blalock to his spot to devour Smith in the backfield. Then, isolated on tackle Sam Baker, Clowney ran right past him on the outside and stumbled into Ryan just as he began to lose his balance.
There's nothing particularly fancy or advanced about what Clowney is doing. He's not using subtle hand techniques to create space like J.J. Watt. There is no Dwight Freeney spin or John Randle rip-and-swim move. What Clowney is doing is physically dominating his opponents—starting NFL linemen—with nothing but his innate speed and strength.
That someone can be this good so quickly despite being a rather unfinished product is what makes Clowney the most compelling story for the Texans. It's very rare in professional sports for an athlete to be so head-and-shoulders above his peers on a purely physical basis. Watching Clowney is like watching Vince Carter dunk-contest highlights. Human beings shouldn't be able to move that fast at that size. Yet, here we are.
The idea that Clowney still has room to grow is frightening. Because he's already plenty frightening on his own right now.
The Texans pieced together a comfortable win despite continued lackluster play from their quarterbacks. They found two late touchdowns off a punt block returned for a score and a pick-six by rookie seventh-rounder Dre Hal in the fourth quarter. T.J. Yates—who was rarely used last season despite Houston's quarterback quagmire—was picked off twice in his return to Houston.
Ryan Fitzpatrick keyed a touchdown drive during the two-minute drill, continuing his habit from last season of playing better in situations where structure breaks down. Fitzpatrick is at his best when he's on the run and not trying to go through progressions quickly—it looks ugly, but it looks less ugly than dropping him back to read defenses. The nine-year journeyman got away with a couple of tight-area throws that could have been broken up.
Case Keenum continued to be a bit of a tease. He had the best throw of the game when he hit Travis Labhart on a corner route between two zone defenders. But when Keenum hears footsteps, bad things happen. And he's always hearing footsteps. Tom Savage completed four of five passes for eight yards. That's a line straight out of a Trent Edwards box score.
This is the sort of game Houston is equipped to win this year—one where its pass rush negates the opposing offense's passing game, where its quarterbacks aren't asked to do a whole lot and where the rushing attack can keep the chains moving enough to eat clock. Despite not starting Arian Foster, Duane Brown or Chris Myers, the Texans won the time-of-possession battle behind Alfred Blue and Jonathan Grimes, finishing with 138 yards on the ground.
If Clowney can continue to blow things up at the pace he's going, that might just be enough to keep the Texans in contention for the AFC South title.