COLLISION COURSE WITH CLOWNEY

Texans prepare to take on familiar face against the Titans this Sunday

Jadeveon Clowney vs. Laremy Tunsil will be a must-see matchup. Photo by Logan Bowles/Getty Images

In January of 2013, Jadeveon Clowney stood at the line of scrimmage as a member of the South Carolina Gamecocks midway through the fourth quarter of the Outback Bowl. As a junior, Clowney ran up the middle of Michigan's offensive line to land the now-infamous hit on running back Vincent Smith.

The play catapulted Clowney as a top prospect on the list of several NFL executives around the league. One year later, the Houston Texans drafted Clowney with the first overall pick of the 2014 NFL Draft.

The Texans paired the then 21-year-old defensive end alongside J.J. Watt to create one of the fiercest tandems over the past decade. Clowney would go on to play five seasons in Houston, becoming a three-time Pro-Bowler (2016-2018) and an All-Pro second-team member in 2016.

On Sunday, Nissan Stadium will be the place where Clowney and the Texans will take the field together for the first time since January of 2019. But instead of being draped in the Texans' red, white and blue, Clowney will be wearing silver, white, and blue as a member of the Tennessee Titans. For the first time in history, the two respective parties will compete as competitors.

"He's a very disruptive player, especially in the run game," Watt said about his ex-teammate on Wednesday. "He can knock a guy back. He can make a massively explosive play in the backfield. He can chase guys down. He's powerful. He's quick. He's fast. He's a very good player. You've got to be aware of where he is at all times because at any point, he can make a play."

The relationship between their former No. 1 pick and the Texans did not end on positive terms. The two parties failed to come to an agreement on a contract extension — which led to Clowney's jettison in a trade to Seattle.

Since he departed from Houston, it has been a tumultuous journey for Clowney. He registered his least productive season during his one-year stint with the Seahawks, and spent all of the 2020 offseason in search of the perfect team willing to give him a massive pay raise. He signed with the Titans two days before the start of the regular season.

While playing against the team who gave him away for two subpar linebackers and a third-round pick (2020), Anthony Weaver believes that the Texans will be facing a highly-motivated Clowney on the opposite side of the line of scrimmage.

"Personally, I have a lot of love and respect for Jadeveon," Weaver said. "He spent five years here and I know he'd love to go out there and put on a show. I expect our offense to accept the challenge and go out there and put their best foot forward and try to shut him down. I expect him to be motivated."

Other than preventing the Texans from putting points on the scoreboard, Clowney's success against Houston will depend on the number of times he can get to Deshaun Watson.

Coming into Sunday's game, he has yet to record a sack on the season. In fact, in a total of 19 career games played since leaving Houston, Clowney has only registered 4.5 sacks — which includes two post-season games.

But despite the limited sack numbers, Clowney has been successful at placing pressure on the opposing team's quarterback. Through the first four games of the season, Clowney has recorded 16 total pressures that resulted in five quarterback hits, according to PFF.

"You've got to get the ball out quick," Watson said. "He can definitely disrupt the game. I've seen it with my own eyes for two years. Seeing him in college and then watching him in the pros. Yeah, he's a problem for sure. We've got to make sure that we know where he is at all times when he's on the field."

Regardless of Clowney's regression over the past two seasons, the now 27-year-old defensive end is still a threat on any given Sunday. The numbers may not show it, but Clowney's presence on the defensive line is just as effective as his tenure in Houston.

However, all it will take is for Clowney to make another vicious highlight, similar to the Outback Bowl, to reestablish himself as one of the NFL's top defensive linemen.

While he would personally love it, let's keep our fingers crossed and hope that Clowney does not find his stride playing against his former organization on Sunday. For a team trying to salvage what is left after an 0-4 start, the last thing the Texans need is to get burned by an old flame.

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Houston gets the best of the Dodgers

Astros behind McCullers Jr. get shutout win in hostile Dodger Stadium

Yordan Alvarez added some big insurance runs against the Dodgers on Tuesday night. Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Having dropped two of three in San Francisco against the league record-leading Giants over the weekend, the Astros exited an off day on Monday and entered a hostile environment at Dodger Stadium in the first of a two-game series on Tuesday night. With some timely hits and an excellent start from their starter, Houston would grab the win.

Final Score: Astros 3, Dodgers 0

Astros' Record: 65-42, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (9-2)

Losing Pitcher: Walker Buehler (11-2)

Houston scores first as McCullers Jr. out-duels Buehler

After nearly turning the game's very first pitch around for a home run but instead going foul, Jose Altuve still started the game with a single in the top of the first. A double play would erase him, though, as the game remained scoreless into the top of the third. Martin Maldonado led that inning off with a double, moved to third on a wild pitch by Walker Buehler, then scored on an RBI double by Michael Brantley, putting Houston ahead 1-0.

Houston threatened again in the top of the fourth, getting two on with two outs, bringing up Martin Maldonado with an empty base, which the Dodgers would use by intentionally walking him to get to Lance McCullers Jr., who grounded out to strand all three runners. He made up for it on the mound, though, out-dueling Buehler, who finished six innings while allowing a run by getting into the seventh scoreless. He would get two outs into that frame while giving up a single and a walk, leaving two on base for Blake Taylor, who came in to get the third out. McCullers Jr.'s final line: 6.2 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 9 K, 110 P.

Alvarez adds insurance as Astros take the opener in LA

Clinging to the one-run lead in the top of the eighth, Carlos Correa worked a one-out walk to bring Yordan Alvarez to the plate, who demolished a 415-foot two-run homer to add two big insurance runs, extending the lead to 3-0. Kendall Graveman took over out of the bullpen in the bottom of the eighth and, despite allowing a leadoff single and hitting a batter, was able to finish a scoreless inning.

With Ryan Pressly on the paternity list, Houston handed the ball to Ryne Stanek to close things out in the bottom of the ninth. He would get the job done, earning the save by retiring the Dodgers in order, giving the Astros the win at the dismay of the fans in Los Angeles.

Up Next: This short series's second and final game will begin thirty minutes earlier on Wednesday at 8:40 PM Central. For the Dodgers, they will get the debut of Max Scherzer (8-4, 2.76 ERA), while Jake Odorizzi (4-5, 4.30 ERA) will take the mound for the Astros.

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