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Pass rush to excel with Clowney, Watt

5/9/2014

br>HOUSTON -- The Texans have the best interior defensive lineman in the NFL. He plays the position the way he wants to, not the way it's historically been played. He's a pass-rushing force, one who changes opposing offenses that always have to account for his whereabouts.

But he can't do it all.

The quarterback can wait. Taking Jadeveon Clowney first overall was really the only move here.

Houston looked around before making this selection, seeing if anyone wanted to move up. The Texans tried until the very last moment -- hoping for a final call while they were on the clock, per our Ed Werder. That they were looking around was a clear sign they would have been content to miss out on Clowney. But it's a good thing for the Texans they didn't.

We saw why last season, when J.J. Watt still had a dominating year, but it wasn't enough. The Texans notched only 32 sacks and only two teams did worse -- the Jaguars and the Bears. The best pressure the Texans got from their front last season came from their defensive ends, and they lost the other one in free agency -- Antonio Smith, who was aging anyway. The Texans didn't get much pressure from their outside linebackers, unusual for a 3-4 base team.

Clowney will help that, playing a versatile role for the Texans that will involve a mix of standing up and playing down.

The Texans were certainly not taking a quarterback first overall. Not with the prevailing thought in the organization being that the quarterbacks were very similar to each other. If that's the case, why not wait until the second round? Or if not the second round, the late first round, which the Texans might trade back into in order to take their quarterback.

The Texans weren't concerned with Clowney's work ethic, the source of much hand-wringing in the past few months. Their question was about Clowney's ability to transition to being a linebacker. They got some information on that during South Carolina's pro day, in which Clowney was outstanding. The rest of the process of figuring out whether or not he could make that transition was in assessing his mental acuity. It seems they were satisfied with what they saw there.

Clowney has said that his dip in production, at least as far as numbers are concerned (13 sacks in 2012 and three in 2013), had to do with the way offenses played him. Watt's impact for the Texans' defense didn't change, but his sack numbers decreased last season, too.

This pick gives opposing offenses two dominant athletes on whom to focus their attention. It's an ideal situation for both Clowney and Watt.