After four long weeks, we have finally reached the end of the great Clowney-Lewan kerfuffle (or perhaps brouhaha?) of 2013. The gigantic tackle from Michigan went up early in the first quarter with his superior technical abilities, but Clowney came roaring back in the second quarter as he started to let his elite athleticism take over. The third quarter saw Clowney take his first lead of the contest as he began mixing up his moves. Now with just a one point lead (7-6), Clowney hopes to finish strong in the home stretch.
I would be remiss if I did not mention that "The Hit" took place in this quarter. Clowney beat a down blocking tight end rather than Lewan, so it was not scored in this post, but it was still impressive to look at nonetheless. The fact that the hit came right after a terrible spot that should have given the ball to South Carolina makes it even more impressive. In the words of Steve Smith, "Big time players make big time plays in big time games."
Outside of "The Hit", however, there was only one snap in the entire quarter that was worthy of scoring. Clowney dropped into coverage multiple times, ran a few stunts, played contain, and bull rushed into tight ends twice, but he really only got to directly engage Lewan himself just one time. Would Lewan be able to close the one point gap and end this fight in an all-too-appropriate tie?
Well…no. He wouldn’t. Clowney killed him. Again.
Ironically enough, it was an arm over to the outside – the very same move that Lewan effortlessly parried throughout the game – that scored the final point. The difference on this snap, however, was that Clowney used it to disengage from Lewan while he was run blocking rather than pass protecting. Notice Lewan has dropped his head while attempting to drive Clowney off the line of scrimmage. By dropping his head, Lewan was not able to easily track Clowney as he disengaged to the outside as he had in the previous three quarters.
Clowney gives Lewan a strong club to the outside shoulder to keep the tackle’s hands at bay while he starts to swing his arm over. If Lewan’s head and eyes had been up like in a typical "kick set" in pass protection, he would have seen Clowney’s outside swim coming yet again and probably given him another shot to the ribs. Without eye discipline, Lewan simply could not react in time to Clowney’s otherworldly quickness.
What I really loved about this move is Clowney’s finish. As he gets around a clearly beaten Lewan, he brings his "swim hand" down with force like a club to make sure that Lewan’s hands are cleared of his chest once and for all. Once Lewan’s hands are forced off his body, there is nothing standing between Clowney and a deliciously violent hit.
Clowney had a bad habit of not finishing his swim move with that final sweeping club at times, and it likely cost him a few big plays throughout his career. Considering that J.J. Watt is the master of the swim move because of his ability to finish with that sweeping club (which I can only assume he learned from the Grand Master of the swim, Antonio Smith) , I think that is a little detail that Clowney should have ironed out fairly quickly in the pros. If and when he does develop a swim move comparable to J.J. Watt’s, there is no telling how many people Jadeveon Clowney is going to break in half. For the full effect, I highly recommend listening to the bone-crushing sound of this hit.
So there you have it, BRB. With a final score of 8-6, Jadeveon Clowney did in fact get the best of Taylor Lewan in the bowl battle for the ages, though it not by much. Clowney scored many of his points off of his freakish displays of athleticism, but it should be noted that Lewan showed he is quite the athlete himself. Technically sound, physically nasty, and mentally sharp, Lewan has every quality that teams look for in a good offensive tackle. Whether or not his off the field allegations will catch up to him in the pros is anyone’s guess, but from a purely "on-field" perspective, this guy is a grade A stud. I look forward to seeing what he can bring to a Titans' offensive line that, at least on paper, ranks among the league’s best.
Clowney also flashed why he was widely considered the best defensive prospect to come out in a generation. That jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring, mind-blowing physical potential popped on screen throughout the game, begging to be refined into a ruthless killing machine. I am not saying that Jadeveon Clowney is Bo Jackson, but if Bo Jackson were a defensive end, he would probably look pretty close to Jadeveon Clowney. If Romeo Crennel and Mike Vrabel mold Clowney into the monster that he is capable of becoming, there is no amount of blockers in the world that will stop the Texans' "Death Row" defensive line.
Be afraid, NFL. Be miserably, hopelessly afraid.