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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Rockets get another much-needed win. Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets went on a redemption tour by beating the Detroit Pistons and Dallas Mavericks. But the most pivotal win was against the Mavericks as the Rockets finally showed their true potential. John Wall finally made his return from his injury hiatus and played with a lot of energy. DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Gordon combined for 61 points. It was great to see Stephan Silas crack a smile as he was able to beat his former team.

The Rockets clearly missed Wall during his eight-game absense. This season, the Rockets are a .500 team with Wall on the court. Wall is the Rockets' floor general that leads, constructs, and also pushes his teammates to become better.

Wall only played 21 minutes in the 133-108 win over the Mavericks but still had eight assists. Even though Wall only had 7 points, his presence was still felt by finding his teammates for open looks beyond the perimeter. Wall made sure Cousins and Gordon got a plethora of touches. He called multiple actions, so they got open looks from three, which was mainly Gordon. Gordon and Cousins' struggles have been similar but with Wall on the court, they were successful against the Mavericks. According to NBA Stats, Wall posted a 111 offensive rating with the starters versus the Mavericks, which included Gordon and Cousins.

"He's the engine to this team. He gets everybody going. He makes the game easy," Cousins told a reporter after the game. "The pressure that he constantly puts on the defense is a tough thing to deal with."

Gordon has struggled all season long with three-point shooting and relied on his slashing abilities. Saturday night, Gordon made six three pointers against the Mavericks, which was 66 percent from beyond the perimeter. Gordon increased his three-point percentage from 31 percent to 34.5 percent after Saturday night's game. Gordon's 33 points came from being able to attack the entire Mavericks' defense. Willy Cauley-Stein didn't stand a chance against Gordon as he was burned multiple times. Gordon's been a lifesaver for the Rockets in the last two games, and hopefully he maintains his play.

Cousins played fantastic against the Mavericks scoring 28 points and grabbing 17 rebounds. This is Cousins' first double-double with the Rockets this season. Cousins became the vintage player from the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings. It was extremely fun watching Cousins push the ball up the court and aggressively snatch rebounds. Boogie shot 50 percent from behind the arc by making four three-pointers. He was dominant inside the paint as Cousins went 7/8 from the restricted area versus the Mavericks. This was the game Cousins needed after having a poor performance against the Pistons Friday night.

"It was really, really good. He did it all. He's a physical presence on both ends of the floor," as Silas said on Cousins' performance.

David Nwaba and Mason Jones were big factors off the Rockets' bench by having a combined total of 34 points together. Nwaba has been great in transition for the Rockets the entire season. Keep in mind that Nwaba is returning from an Achilles injury he suffered with his former team, the Brooklyn Nets. Nwaba has became a great defender, slasher, and is averaging a career-high nine points per game with the Rockets. He finished with 18 points on Saturday night versus the Mavericks.

Mason Jones has become a fan favorite of the Rockets because of his confidence. Silas is loving the usage of Jones off the bench but wants to find more minutes for him. Jones had a breakout performance versus the San Antonio Spurs with 24 points off 66 percent shooting from the field. He continues to get better with his reads from the point guard position. Jones' knowledge of running the offense has helped his efficiency on the court. He is never afraid to take clutch shots in pivotal moments of the game.

"To have a young kid who can come in and not be afraid of the moment, that's big. That's a tough position to be in as an undrafted rookie. I trust him. It's a good problem to have," Silas mentioned after the game. "He's showing me he's ready. He's a confident kid, and he should be. That's why he's good. He's not afraid of the moment, at all. He can get us organized, run plays, and score the basketball."

Hopefully, the Rockets can sustain their level of play when Victor Oladipo returns against the Washington Wizards, Tuesday. It will be interesting to watch Oladipo and Wall play in the same backcourt.

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