By Nick Shook
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Jadeveon Clowney finally had the season everyone expected when he was selected first overall in the 2014 draft.
As a result, he leapt into the upper half of the Top 100 Players of 2017, landing at No. 49. Now, his position coach is showering even higher praise — immortal, even — on the edge-rushing dynamo, saying Clowney has Hall of Fame potential. Clowney isn’t taking that lightly as he aims to build upon his 2016 success.
“It meant a lot to me,” Clowney said Tuesday of defensive line coach Anthony Weaver’s praise, via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. “He sees the work I’ve put in from two years of being injured to the next year to the year after. All the guys around my team tell me to keep improving and keep getting better and come back for another great season this year.
“I’m not surprised. He sees my potential. He sees what I can do. I’ve been talking to him since he came in the building. He sees me working. He coached me. I would say hats off to my coach and I’m going to get ready to go for him.”
Weaver joined the Texans as the defensive line coach in 2016, which gave him an overwhelmingly positive sample size with which to work. He wasn’t in the building when Clowney was sidelined due to injuries in 2014 and 2015, although past film gave him plenty of not-so-great tape to review. But that doesn’t take away from what the coach saw in practice and on game days, giving him the point of authority from which he speaks. Good health evened the playing field for Clowney when he was previously disadvantaged, and perhaps Weaver’s tutelage gave him an added boost.
Then again, it is June, the month in which hyperbole flourishes in NFL circles. Giving a guy a gold jacket, or a shot at one, off of one solid season has been done many times before, and it has rarely been proven prophetic.
But we can get excited for a potential boost in Clowney’s numbers (52 tackles, six sacks, two passes defensed, one forced fumble in 2016), because the league’s No. 1 defense is getting star end J.J. Watt back in 2017. You can’t max protect on every play, and you can’t double or chip on both of them without significantly handcuffing your offense. We weep for the other quarterbacks in the AFC South.