1. drained of energy; spent, exhausted
“Jadeveon Clowney looks gassed”
If you watched Thursday night’s broadcast of the South Carolina-North Carolina football game, or any sports network since that night, you have probably heard that there are some rumblings about star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney’s conditioning. In USC 27-10 victory over the Tar Heels, Clowney recorded only three tackles and had no YouTube-worthy moments or highlight-reel plays.
After eight months of watching him nearly break Vincent Smith in half, many were disappointed to find out that the USC lineman will apparently not be able to send headgear into orbit anytime he wants to. Jesse Palmer, David Pollack, a majority of the Twitter-sphere and several sports radio callers and hosts seemed rather peeved that Clowney would have the audacity to grow weary during a college football game played in the south with a temperature of 95 degrees at kickoff while reportedly fighting off the effects of a stomach virus. Some even stated that he was a non-factor in the contest.
In order to see whether Palmer, Pollack and others have a legitimate beef, I pulled up the video of Thursday’s game and watched Jadeveon Clowney’s every movement on every single snap.
NOTE: The following analysis was compiled from watching every play from opening kickoff until the game was suspended with 8:20 remaining in the 4th quarter, when the video ended:
Number of Defensive Snaps for South Carolina: 64
Everyone knew coming into the game that UNC would try to run its offense at hyper-speed and the Tar Heels did just that for most of the game. The Tar Heels also boasted an offense that only allowed 11 sacks last season. Not exactly a dream scenario for an ill pass rusher.
Number of Defensive Snaps for Clowney: 42
Clowney played approximately 66% of USC’s defensive plays. He spent nearly all of his time at defensive end, lining up at nose guard on the first play of the game and also blitzing from a cornerback/linebacker hybrid possession on one play. In terms of effort, he performance in the first half was far better than the second. However, it is worth noting that nearly all of the plays where he appeared to simply stand up at the line of scrimmage occurred when the ball was run or thrown to the opposite side of the field.
Number of Plays Where Clowney Ended Up In the Backfield: 25
Almost 60% of the plays that started with Clowney at the line of scrimmage ended with him in the Tar Heel backfield. It’s easy for cameras to catch the two or three plays where a guy gives less-than-stellar effort, but Clowney was around the ball on almost two-thirds of the plays he participated in. Cherry-picking a few of his off plays does not accurately reflect his performance. Even on an “off night,” UNC failed to keep him out of the backfield 25 different times.
Number of Designed Runs That Went Away from Clowney: 14
Exactly one-third of the plays North Carolina called with #7 on the field were runs designed to go to the opposite side of the field. Only once did UNC run towards Clowney’s side and that came on a busted play that turned into a QB scramble. The Tar Heels never once lined up and sent the ball carrier to Clowney’s side. Hard to make tackles when an entire game plan is designed to go away from you.
Number of Plays Where Clowney Was Blocked by 2+ Players: 13
On nearly 31% of the snaps he played, Clowney had to fight off at least two blockers. Understand that this does not simply count plays where he was double-teamed at the line. This number also include plays that featured him having to beat an offensive lineman (or two) and then having to deal with a tailback. USC’s other defensive linemen had at least one less blocker to deal with on 13 plays over the course of the game because Clowney drew so much attention.
Number of Times Clowney Pressured the Quarterback: 12
Officially, Clowney was credited with three “quarterback hurries.” Watching the game again, there were 12 different occasions where Clowney was a step away from the quarterback when the ball was released or where Clowney forced UNC’s quarterback to move in the pocket or scramble away. On several plays, the quarterback escaped Clowney only to throw the ball away or run into the arms of another Gamecock defender. Those plays don’t show up in the stat sheet, but you can’t argue that they didn’t have an impact.
Number of Screens UNC Threw With Clowney on the Field: 7
One-sixth of North Carolina’s plays with Clowney in the game were screen passes. No one makes sacks on screen passes. Combine those seven with the 14 runs away from Clowney and you get 21 plays that were specifically designed to get the ball away from Clowney as quickly as possible. 50% of the snaps UNC’s offense took with him on the field were either runs to the other side or screens designed to draw him away from the ball carrier.
Number of Times Clowney Pursued from Hashmark to Sideline: 2
Twice in the game, Clowney ran from the far side of the field to the opposite sideline. Neither of those plays ended with him making the tackle, but he wound up near the pile on both occasions. There were plenty of plays where the ball went away from him and Clowney did not pursue, but that can be said for every defensive end who has ever played. This pair of plays may not have shown up in the box score, but they do show that Clowney’s effort was not nearly as poor as people claimed.
Ultimately, a relatively quiet night for Clowney on paper was anything but on film. He directly impacted the game while only making three actual tackles. Clowney’s motor has often been questioned and he has never used sickness as an excuse before, so there is no reason to believe he was lying about having a virus. The national media is going to scrutinize his every move from now until season’s end, but they missed the mark in the season-opener.
An underwhelming statistical performance? Perhaps. But a non-factor?
That’s a clown statement, bro.