THE LONE STAR

In loss to the Ravens, Clowney is one of the few bright spots, as he has been all season

Jadeveon Clowney is one of the few bright spots in a lost season. Houstontexans.com

In this lost Texans season, one defensive player has consistently stepped up. Jadeveon Clowney has become the force the Texans envisioned when they drafted him No. 1 overall.

He has been nothing short of spectacular this season. Clowney picked up his ninth sack of the season in the 23-16 loss to the Ravens. The loss dropped the Texans to 4-7 and essentially ended their slim playoff hopes. But it was not on Clowney. He is second in the league in tackles for losses. He is constantly double teamed. Teams are game planning around him.

He did not get a ton of help Monday night. His special teams was caught off guard on a play that set up one touchdown. Tom Savage threw a terrible pick that set up another score, threw another one late and gave up yet another fumble on a sack -- his seventh of the year, which leads the league. Savage is good for at least two turnovers a game. Monday he had three. Those led to 10 points and would have been more if the Ravens had not run out the clock after the last turnover. That makes it almost impossible to win a game in Baltimore. The turnovers were the difference in the game. 

But Clowney more than did his part. While the stat line does not look all that impressive -- two tackles, both for losses with the sack -- he was constantly in the backfield, putting pressure on the Ravens offensive line and quarterback Joe Flacco. He forced players to run into tackles. He had one mistake late -- an offsides that gave the Ravens a first down -- but otherwise he was the best player on the field when the Texans were on defense.

Early in his career, injuries slowed him down. The “bust” word was being thrown around. But with J.J. Watt lost for the bulk of the season for a second straight year, Clowney has been one of the few bright spots on a defense that has struggled throughout the year.

The reality is the Texans simply suffered too many injuries this season. They lost two of their three best players on defense when Watt and Whitney Mercilus went down. Brian Cushing has missed 10 games because of another PED violation. They then lost one of the most exciting young QBs in football when Deshaun Watson went down.

Of the star players, Clowney and D’Andre Hopkins are the last men standing. Both have been phenomenal and were again Monday night. Both need help. It’s a shame that so many players have been lost. But as strange as it might sound, Clowney might be benefitting from Watt’s absence. The Texans have used Clowney the way they used Watt; lining him up in different places, moving him around, trying to isolate him in positive matchups. The results have been excellent. Unfortunately, the results as a team have not been as good, but that’s not on Clowney.

In a lost season, Clowney has been a rare bright spot.

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