Jedeveon Clowney: #1 Draft Pick?

I want you to watch this 40-yd dash from the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine that happened this last weekend (February 23, 2014).

You heard Mike Mayock correctly, a man weighing in at 466 lbs ran 40 yards in 4.47 seconds. Okay, officially it was 4.53 after the computers were able to dissect the tape. But still, the average time for that position was in the 4.7 second range. Jedeveon Clowney, the 2012 SEC Defensive Player of the Year, is fast. He’s faster than any starting Quarterback in pro football right now and also after the 2014 NFL Draft.

Clowney’s athleticism is so astounding that, despite questions about his work ethic, the NFL Network is picking him to be the first player drafted this year, come May 8, 2014; ESPN isn’t quite as certain. The #1 overall draft pick belongs to the Houston Texans. And I think this is a bad marriage.

I say this because Houston has brought in a new Head Coach, Bill O’Brian. He comes from the Bill Parcels-Bill Belichick coaching tree. O’Brian’s philosophies will be different than Houston’s former Head Coach, Gary Kubiak, who came from the Bill Walsh-Mike Shanahan coaching tree. With O’Brian comes Defensive Coordinator, Romeo Crennel (RAC), former Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator of my beloved Kansas City Chiefs. Kubiak had Wade Philips as his Defensive Coordinator and ran Philips’ patented 3-4 defense. While RAC runs a 3-4, it’s very different.

Defenses revolve in large part to what gap technique they will employ. Chris Brown explains,

“Gap” refers to the area between offensive linemen. A one-gap technique is just what it sounds like: the defensive lineman lines up in front of the gap he is responsible for, and his job is to attack and control it. If nothing else, a defender must not allow a runner to go through his gap. While defensive linemen attack their gaps, the linebackers behind them are responsible for their own gaps. These are the defense’s “run fits,” meaning how they fit into an offense’s blocking scheme to take away running space.

Brown, Chris B. (2012-05-23). The Essential Smart Football (p. 131). . Kindle Edition.

The two-gap technique, by contrast, sounds physically impossible. How can one player occupy two separate gaps? He does it by controlling the blocker. At the snap of the football, a two-gapping defensive lineman does what Wilfork did to Birk. He leads with his hands, gets leverage on the offensive lineman, and takes control of the blocker. From there, the advanced techniques kick in. On run plays, the defender reacts to where the blocker tries to take him. If he is double-teamed, he’ll try to split the blockers and either shoot into the backfield or occupy the blockers, thus freeing up his teammates to make tackles.

Brown, Chris B. (2012-05-23). The Essential Smart Football (p. 132). . Kindle Edition.

Wade Philips runs the “one-gap” while RAC runs the “two-gap” version of the 3-4. Consider this graphic as an illustration:

Houston has a 3-4 defensive end in J. J. Watt who is a phenomenal football player. He was the 2012 NFL Defensive Player of the Year—and that by a near unanimous vote. In Philips’ scheme, Watt attacks the gap he’s responsible for to tackle whoever has the ball in the backfield, whether it’s a running back or the quarterback. In RAC’s scheme, Watt will have to control an offensive lineman and read what the offense is doing so he can react. In the image above, Watt thrived playing at the spot labeled “T” in the above image, on the one-gap side. Now he’ll have to play the spot labeled “E” on the two-gap side.

This leaves Jedeveon Clowney in a tough spot. At the University of South Carolina, Clowney played defensive end in a 4-3 scheme. In the above graphic, think of the E on the one-gap side.

Or he’d have to bulk up and play the two-gap E, like Watt most likely will have to do. But now RAC isn’t using Clowney’s freakish athleticism to beat blockers and attack the backfield. He would have to control a blocker to read and react to the play. Not a good fit.

Clowney needs to go to a place that doesn’t run a two-gap scheme that forces him to do things he’s not built to do. I hope, for his sake, that the Texans draft a quarterback with their #1 overall pick this coming May. The media is so caught up in his athleticism that they are forgetting that RAC runs a specific kind of defense that requires certain kinds of players. Clowney isn’t that guy for Houston.


~ by hankimler on February 25, 2014.

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