Jadeveon Clowney might be the NFL’s biggest enigma.
In past eras, when edge rushers were judged solely by their sack numbers, that may not have been the case. The 2014 first-overall pick, who’s tallied just 32 sacks in six full seasons, likely would have been written off as a bust by this point in his career. In the age of analytics and Pro Football Focus, though, we have more data points with which to judge a player’s performance, and those peripheral numbers tell us that Clowney is one of the NFL’s most disruptive defenders.
As defensive coaches are fond of saying, “Disruption is production.”
But based on Clowney’s experience in free agency this past offseason, it seems NFL front offices don’t feel the same way. The 27-year-old — who had just three sacks in 2019 but performed well in just about every metric that measures pressure — had to wait until September to land with the Titans after teams balked at his contract demands, which would have paid him like an elite edge rusher.
If you view Clowney through certain lenses, he might appear to be one of those elite players. For instance, in 2019, Clowney ranked seventh in ESPN’s Pass Rush Win Rate metric, which uses the NFL’s in-house tracking data to quantify pressure. So Clowney was getting close to the quarterback; he just couldn’t convert that proximity into sacks. And he’s back at it again in 2020. According to PFF, Clowney has logged 12 pressures, which ranks ninth in the league, but has yet to register a single sack.
So … what gives?
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