On Sunday we all received our first look at what Jadeveon Clowney can do for the Seattle Seahawks.
Clowney, a three-time Pro Bowl defensive end and the former first-overall selection in the NFL draft, was acquired from the Houston Texans a week earlier at a cut-rate price because he was holding out. On Sunday he made his Seahawks debut, officially playing 48 of Seattle’s 77 defensive snaps and finishing with two tackles, one sack and one pass defensed in Seattle’s season-opening 21-20 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals at CenturyLink Field.
The numbers may seem modest, but Sunday provided a glimpse of what Clowney is going to bring to the Seahawks, especially considering Clowney was working on just one week’s worth of on-field preparations because of his holdout. In addition to his sack, tackle for loss and batted pass, Clowney commanded premium attention from the Bengals’ offensive line, helping open lanes for others like Quinton Jefferson, who had a career day with two sacks of his own.
These are exactly the qualities the Seahawks were seeking. The biggest question about Seattle throughout the offseason was about the pass rush. Leading sack man Frank Clark was traded to Kansas City in a cost-savings move. The Seahawks drafted L.J. Collier in the first round of the draft, but he’s considered more of an every-down defensive end than a pure pass rusher. Former Pro Bowler Ziggy Ansah was signed as a free agent, but he continues to recover from offseason shoulder surgery. The unexpected last-minute trade for Clowney was the move that finally addressed the situation the way Seattle hoped.
Clowney is playing a more traditional defensive end role in Seattle’s 4-3 defense than he did in Houston’s 3-4. With the Texans Clowney often found himself lining up as a stand-up rusher. However, on Sunday he was in a three-point stance for all but one of his snaps, and that’s how he played in college at South Carolina when he became the nation’s top talent.
For all his abilities and accolades, Clowney never had more than 9.5 sacks in a season during his five years in Houston. The man he’s charged with replacing, Clark, had 13.0 sacks last season, so Clowney will have to have a career year rushing the passer to replace the lost production. But he’s on his way after getting his first sack against the Bengals — though that instance of forcing Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton out of bounds was as much due to the coverage as it was Clowney’s pass rush. And his role in Seattle may be more suited to his pass-rushing abilities than his role in Houston was.
So how many sacks do you think Clowney will finish with for the Seahawks this season? Make the call here: