Clowney wants to be one of 'the greatest'

February, 22, 2014
Feb 22
2:50
PM ET

INDIANAPOLIS -- The question didn't faze Jadeveon Clowney one bit.

You'd figure he expected to be asked why we should believe that, after getting the paycheck of a No. 1 overall pick, his career trajectory would continue to go up, what with all the talk about his work ethic and motivation, including some from his college coach.

"I want to be one of the greatest of all time," Clowney said, with the quiet forcefulness that cloaked all his words during his news conference at the NFL combine Saturday.

And why should the Texans commit their top overall pick to a defensive player rather than a quarterback?

"It takes defense to win championships, hands down," said Clowney, who used this year's Super Bowl as an example.

Yesterday I asked Texans general manager Rick Smith this question: If there were two hypothetical players available in this draft who were guaranteed to become five-time Pro Bowl caliber players, one a defensive end and one a quarterback, which one would you take? Smith said with that guarantee, he wants both, but that quarterback is the most important position, and he'd take the quarterback.

But that guarantee might not exist in this draft for any quarterback. It might with Clowney. And if the Texans don't think it does, you can bet some other team will.

As the combine week has progressed, I've heard more and more that Clowney's talent is so remarkable that the concern about his motivation is moot. It reminded me of a comment I once heard about one elite NFL pass-rusher -- he doesn't always go full speed, but when he makes up his mind to get past someone, nothing can be done to stop him. It's almost harder to face a guy such as that because of the unpredictability.

Clowney talked Saturday about being good in space. If the Texans drafted him, he'd likely be an outside linebacker opposite Whitney Mercilus in the Texans' base defense. I could see the Texans' defensive front looking like this: J.J. Watt and Antonio Smith at defensive end, Brian Cushing at mike linebacker, Clowney and Mercilus on the edges, and players to be determined at nose tackle and the other inside linebacker spot.

That's a really strong lineup, especially as Mercilus learns to use his physical tools better under linebackers coach Mike Vrabel's tutelage.

Defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel's traditional front demands less attacking from the inside than Wade Phillips' did, which is part of why they got so much pass-rushing production from Watt and Smith. But it'd be foolish to think Crennel wouldn't adapt to Watt's skill set. Texans coach Bill O'Brien indicated zero concern on how Watt would fit into the Texans' new defensive scheme -- a scheme that wouldn't be constrained by its base.

Clowney was late getting to the combine. After his flight out of Columbia, S.C., was delayed, he drove to Charlotte, N.C., and was delayed again. He finally got into Indianapolis on Friday evening, not exactly a speedy arrival.

Now that he's here, he's not expecting speed to be an issue. Clowney hopes to run the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds or better. That kind of performance would only confirm what's already known about what he can do.

He can be one of the greatest ever. That's exactly what you want with the top pick in the draft.

Tania Ganguli

ESPN Houston Texans reporter

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