Here's why Jadeveon Clowney is going to make a lot of money this offseason

Senior NFL writer
Yahoo Sports
<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nfl/players/27529/" data-ylk="slk:Jadeveon Clowney">Jadeveon Clowney</a> is having as strong season for the playoff-bound <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nfl/teams/hou" data-ylk="slk:Texans">Texans</a>. (Getty Images)
Jadeveon Clowney is having as strong season for the playoff-bound Texans. (Getty Images)

You’ve got to love the contract season. In the NFL, money is the ultimate motivator, and in Houston we’re seeing a good example of that with defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.

Clowney, the insanely-gifted No. 1 overall pick in 2014, is set to be a free agent in March. He needed another productive season to get paid. He has turned it on of late too, notching 6 1/2 sacks the past nine games. His performance in the Texans’ 32-30 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday may have been his masterpiece of 2018.

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That’s why the first topic in this week’s “Things I Enjoyed” column is …

1. Jadeveon Clowney’s contract #SZN

Clowney was strong in every area against the Eagles on Sunday. Whether it was rushing the passer, stuffing the run, tackling and even playing in coverage, the 6-foot-5, 270-pounder was killing it with his rare combination of size, athleticism and hustle. For a player who was once considered a bust by many after two mediocre seasons to open his career, he has been a downright revelation the past two seasons.

“There’s a lot of things I can say about JD,” coach Bill O’Brien said. “I think he’s a great teammate. I think he comes to play on Sundays. He’s a very disruptive guy. He’s a very instinctive guy. He does what we ask him to do. He made a lot of plays [Sunday]. When he feels good, like I’ve always said about him, when his body feels good and he feels good health-wise, he’s a hard guy to deal with.”

The Eagles found that out first-hand, especially as it related to the pass rush. Here’s a three-play clip of Clowney (No. 90) wrecking fools with his athleticism and strength:

Here’s another three-play clip of Clowney looking strong against the run, either with brute force or his electric, elite swim move:

Clowney even does his thing in coverage:

And finally, here’s a clip of Clowney simply playing his butt off:

When Clowney is playing like this, the only negative to his game is his penchant for undisciplined play. He has been the second-most penalized player in the NFL this season, behind only Washington offensive tackle Morgan Moses. Five of his 13 penalties are for offsides, while three are for neutral zone infractions. Those are penalties of aggression, and when Clowney is playing this well, the Texans will happily take the trade off.

Patrick Mahomes needs two touchdown passes on Sunday to hit 50 in a season. That would put him in company with Tom Brady and Peyton Manning as the only QBs to accomplish the feat in the regular season. (AP)
Patrick Mahomes needs two touchdown passes on Sunday to hit 50 in a season. That would put him in company with Tom Brady and Peyton Manning as the only QBs to accomplish the feat in the regular season. (AP)

2. Patrick Mahomes’ Jeter-like throw (proving his brilliance)

I’ve written plenty about Patrick Mahomes’ penchant for awesome throws this season, but his third-quarter touchdown pass to Charcandrick West — which was more like a slingshot — in the Chiefs’ loss to the Seahawks on Sunday night might have been his best throw yet:

Not only did Mahomes, who was rolling to his left, throw across his body … he also threw SIDEARM, like he’s a shortstop. This is the type of throw Derek Jeter used to make, the type of throw I can’t recall ever seeing a quarterback make in a game. Even Mahomes was surprised by his arm. After the play, he could be caught staring at his right arm like he couldn’t believe it. The throw was Mahomes’ 30th touchdown pass on the road, breaking an NFL record.

By the way, I’ve heard some recent chatter about Mahomes’ 2-4 prime-time record and how it hurts his MVP case. I find it infuriating.

In those six games, the Chiefs averaged 37 (expletive) points under the leadership of Mahomes, who completed 66 percent of his passes for 2,008 yards, 20 touchdowns and six interceptions. The Chiefs’ 31st-ranked defense, meanwhile, surrendered an average of 41 points in their four prime-time losses.

The Chiefs, by the way, are 11-4 and will likely finish with a 12-4 record and the AFC’s top seed, despite having one of the worst defenses in the league. So you tell me what’s the bigger problem in primetime: Mahomes or the defense?

Knock it off, talking heads.

3. Ronnie Stanley’s emergence as a plus pass protector

Most of the talk about the resurgent Ravens has centered on quarterback Lamar Jackson, who has led Baltimore to a 5-1 record as a starter and a possible playoff berth. But know that none of Jackson’s inspired play or the Ravens’ resurgence would be possible without 24-year-old left tackle Ronnie Stanley.

Stanley, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft, has really come into his own this season. He proved it again Saturday against the Chargers, when he put on a clinic against two of the game’s best edge rushers in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. Stanley did not yield a single hurry, pressure or hit in this contest, which is hard to do against a team that can rush the passer like the Chargers.

Stanley did have some help — the Ravens scheme a lot of placation and zone-read stuff with Jackson that makes edge rushers a little more tentative than usual. But on classic dropbacks, Stanley (a nimble 6-foot-6, 315-pounder) used his length and agility to stonewall his opponents. Watch big No. 79 go to work at left tackle in these seven plays below:

4. Mark Ingram’s pass protection

Ingram, 29, hasn’t been as productive this season as he was in 2017, when he rushed for 1,124 yards on 4.9 yards per carry and 12 touchdowns. Most of that, I imagine, has to do with the four-game suspension he had to serve for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

Ingram has still been solid, notching 617 yards and six touchdowns on 133 carries (4.6 ypc), and he helps the Saints in many ways as a complement to stud second-year pro Alvin Kamara.

“He’s always been a guy that’s passionate and has a ton of energy,” Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael said. “He’s a great football player and the thing about Mark is you’re comfortable handing him the ball, you’re comfortable throwing him the ball out of the backfield, splitting him out. He’s got versatility … he’s obviously a big part of what we do.”

Even as a pass protector. At 5-9 and 210 pounds, Ingram is compact and strong, a fire hydrant ready to do the job if called upon. Here are three plays showing some of Ingram’s (No. 22) best blocks in recent weeks:

5. A fake punt that actually worked (unlike Pittsburgh’s)

While I appreciated Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin’s aggressiveness on his decision to call a fake punt on fourth-and-5 at the Steelers’ 42-yard line in the fourth quarter — he was right not to trust his defense against Drew Brees — it was still a bad call because of the play’s design. Anytime a team calls a fake and tries for the needed 5 yards up the middle, it’s probably a bad idea to rely on a 235-pounder to block a 300-pounder, as the Steelers did. If Tomlin wanted to go for it, he should have GONE for it … with Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster on the field. That, I would have applauded and even defended.

There was an example from the Browns-Bengals game of a situation where the fake punt was actually a good idea. It came early in the first quarter, with the Bengals facing fourth-and-1 at their 46.

The Bengals had time (it was still early in the contest) and field position (close to midfield) on their side. But most importantly, they had matchups in their favor. They needed only a yard, and due to the Browns’ alignment, it allowed the Bengals to get a double at the line of scrimmage on 245-pound tight end Seth DeValve (No. 87), who is aligned on the right guard’s right shoulder. The Bengals’ left guard also took a good angle and was able to wall off 235-pound linebacker D’Juan Hines (No. 59), who is aligned on the left guard’s left shoulder.

All this gave the up-back, Clayton Fejedelem (No. 46), all the room he needed to get 6 yards and the conversion. THIS is how you execute a fake punt, folks:

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