NASHVILLE — Jadeveon Clowney’s signing by the Tennessee Titans on Saturday represents a monumental win for the franchise before games even begin to be played.
GM Jon Robinson and coach Mike Vrabel needed a game-wrecker. In Clowney, they found a proven one.
“I remember, just my first couple years in the league when we had coach Mike Mularkey here, we always used to have these ‘game-wreckers’ that they used to put up on the board before every single game,” safety Kevin Byard told media on Monday. “Every time we’d play Houston, he was the No. 1 Game Wrecker. I kind of view him as a guy who can wreck a whole entire game plan. He’s going to be a guy that teams are going to have to game plan for every single game, whether they try to chip block him, they can’t release all their receivers out, things like that. He’s going to be a great addition to our defense.”
A known commodity since being drafted first overall out of South Carolina in 2014, Clowney presents problems to opposing offenses for a variety of reasons.
— AtoZSports Nashville (@AtoZSports) September 7, 2020
Clowney is one of only three NFL players with at least 60 tackles for loss, eight forced fumbles and 150 quarterback pressures since 2016, per Sportradar. The others on the list are Aaron Donald and Chandler Jones. He ranks fourth with 60 tackles for loss over that same span. One of his most dominant seasons came in 2017 under Vrabel’s tutelage as Houston’s defensive coordinator.
Instead of trafficking in the idea of Clowney purely working off the edge, Vrabel experimented with his defense’s versatility by moving Clowney as a chess piece all over the Texans’ front. This positionless position is known as the “Creeper” or “Joker.”
The more places Vrabel can play his newest acquisition, the easier life becomes for the Titans’ defense.
“I think (Jurrell Casey) is one of the best, if not the best, interior pass rushers on stunts,” Brandon Thorn of EstablishTheRun.com told me on the 615 Sessions podcast. “The way he’s able to knife through as a penetrator on stunts and really free up loopers behind him to have creases and things like that. He was kind of the point man on their blitz packages and on their different line games and twists that they want to run. I think Clowney is kind of that guy who can kind of set everybody else up.”
— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) November 29, 2017
Tennessee desperately needs an improved pass rush in 2020. After seeing the way that quarterback Patrick Mahomes was able to dissect them in the second half of last year’s 35-24 AFC Championship Game loss, Vrabel and Robinson knew they needed to make improvements. The hope is that the addition of Clowney and fellow free agent acquisition Vic Beasley will help juice a defense that finished 20th (41%) in ESPN’s pass rush win rate in 2019.
The Titans’ goal, stated or unstated, is to make the Clown into a Joker once more.
Featured Image: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports.