COLLISION COURSE WITH CLOWNEY

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

Jadeveon Clowney
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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Astros defeat the A's, 6-3. Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images.

Jake Meyers hit a three-run homer to highlight Houston's six-run fourth inning that backed Justin Verlander's winning start, and the Astros beat the Oakland Athletics 6-3 on Friday night.

Verlander (3-2) struck out nine over six innings to increase hit total to 3,377, passing Hall of Famer Greg Maddux (3,371) for 10th on the career strikeouts list. He gave up two runs — one earned — on eight hits and didn't walk a batter for a second straight start and seventh time this year.

After another milestone to add to a long list of them, Verlander wasn't sure exactly how to feel.

“I feel like I should be more excited but I feel like I’m a little more introspective and reflective,” Verlander said. “A lot of sacrifices you make in this game, a lot of time away from the family, but I love it, so it’s pretty amazing. I don’t know if as a 21- or 22-year-old kid in professional baseball if I’d thought I’d be in the top-10 in anything. This sport’s been around for so long. Hard to put into words, but a lot of thoughts, a lot of thoughts went through my mind.”

When his teammates celebrated him once the special outing had ended, Verlander allowed himself to ponder the meaning.

Verlander remembers his first strikeout and he recalls one against Hall of Fame slugger Frank Thomas here at the Coliseum — and the pitcher wears No. 35 because of Thomas.

“I have a lot of great memories here,” he said.

A's manager Mark Kotsay, a former Oakland outfielder, has been witness to some of those.

“He’s just tough. He’s a Hall of Fame pitcher. He knows his game plan and he executes it really well," Kotsay said. "He doesn’t make a ton of mistakes.”

Yordan Alvarez added an RBI double and Josh Hader finished the 2-hour, 31-minute game with his seventh save for the Astros, who began a seven-game road trip.

After right-hander Ross Stripling (1-9) retired the first nine Houston hitters in order, Jose Altuve singled to start the fourth for the first of four straight hits that included Alex Bregman's two-run single.

The A's drew an announced crowd of 9,676 for the series opener after winning two of three against Colorado following an eight-game losing streak.

Miguel Andujar came off the injured list and immediately hit an RBI single in the first off Verlander and finished with three hits in his A's and season debut — including another run-scoring single in the seventh.

Andjuar's RBI marked the first time the A's have scored first in 18 games — ending the longest streak in franchise history. Batting cleanup, he also singled in the third.

Astros left fielder Chas McCormick robbed Max Schuemann of an extra-base hit when he crashed into the wall to make a great catch ending the eighth.

“That was a big play at the moment,” manager Joe Espada said.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Astros: RHP José Urquidy was pulled from his rehab start with Triple-A Sugar Land because of right forearm discomfort. He has been on the injured list with inflammation in his pitching shoulder. ... 1B José Abreu is scheduled to rejoin the club Monday in Seattle after playing at least two games with Triple-A Sugar Land as he works to regain his hitting rhythm.

Athletics: Andujar had been sidelined all season after having meniscus surgery on his right knee. He was claimed off waivers from the Pirates on Nov. 6. Oakland created roster room by optioning INF Brett Harris to Triple-A Las Vegas.

UP NEXT

RHP Spencer Arrighetti (2-4, 7.16 ERA) pitches for the Astros in the middle game opposite A's LHP JP Sears (3-3, 4.31).

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