We talked with Rotoworld.com NFL Draft Writer Josh Norris again this week, and he had even more great stuff than usual. Norris watched every snap of Jadeveon Clowney’s season this week and offers a spirited defense of the junior defensive end’s performance this season. Also, Norris tells us why he thinks South Carolina is going to run a lot of zone read in the direction of Razorbacks defensive end Chris Smith, who is tied for the SEC lead in sacks with six.
The State: We’ll start as we seemingly always do with a Jadeveon Clowney question. He’s the topic of the day around the country. From an NFL potential standpoint, has this week done anything to change your mind or the mind of NFL people about his potential?
Josh Norris: I spent yesterday watching every single one of his snaps from the season in a row. I have always had a difficult time questioning a certain player’s work ethic off the field, personality, characters, injuries especially, I’m no doctor, and that seems to be a lot of what the negatives are right now. I have never met him. I only know what I see on the field. That can be a tricky part of these evaluations because players can be very talented but injured or they have off-field concerns. I am not lumping Clowney with other character concerns we have had in previous years, but other people seem to be and I don’t think that’s fair.
Doing some work, I figured out that he has played in more than 78 percent of South Carolina’s defensive snaps when he has suited up for a game. Now, compare that to defensive ends in the NFL because that’s his easiest projection, and you have guys like Jason Pierre-Paul, Julius Peppers, DeMarcus Ware. Those three guys are at or below 78 percent of the defensive snaps for their teams. Do you hear about them loafing or taking plays off, things like that? No, because the cameras don’t follow them to the sideline like they do with Clowney.
Just quickly about what he’s doing on the field. I took nine or 10 screen shots just from three games that I was watching, and it’s amazing how often he gets in the backfield when the rest of his peers are still stuck at the line of scrimmage. It’s crazy. It’s almost every single time he’s match up one-on-one, and even when he’s doubled at times. He is three, four steps in the backfield thanks to a ridiculous get off. His get off is amazing. As soon as the ball is snapped, his head is over the ball and the rest of the defensive line is still in there stance. He loves that arm over swim that J.J. Watt loves and has tremendous success with.
I think disruption is production, but it doesn’t show up on the box scores, and everyone loves to cite box scores because it’s easy. With Clowney, I don’t think his game has taken a step back at all, and he’s injured. The narrative right now is very disappointing in my opinion, and I’m not in favor of it at all. I am going to stick to evaluating him on the field and he is making a tremendous impact on the field. I just don’t think his teammates are finishing the plays he is starting enough.
The State: Arkansas is also led by defensive ends as well, right?
Josh Norris: They are. It seems like we keep talking about defensive ends. Chris Smith is one, No. 42, and they have another defensive end, Trey Flowers, who is in the 80s. I would say Flowers is the longer, more powerful defensive end. He usually lines up on the right side, and Smith is the left defensive end. Flowers uses his length more often. He likes to press and drive. He’s not much of a quick-twitch player, but he has a lot of tackles-for-loss this season. On the other side, Chris Smith, a lot of people are going to point to his sack total and say he is one of the top pass rushers in the country, and while I think he should be on more radars, he kind of gets away with a lot of inside moves.
It’s weird. I would expect if the Gamecocks do run a zone read or anything like that, he bites on inside play fakes really often. He loves to take an inside step and work inside the tackle. I don’t know if he’s instructed to do that or if he does that on his own, but I expect Shaw or Mike Davis to take advantage of that and beat him to the corner.