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Clowney, 26, registered 92 tackles and 10.5 sacks in 27 regular-season games between the 2015-16 seasons after appearing in just four games in his rookie season. He was a Pro Bowler and an Associated Press second-team All-NFL selection in 2016.
Clowney’s true coming-out party occurred in Houston’s wild-card win over the Oakland Raiders that year, as he finished the game with an interception and two pass deflections and also provided regular pressure on the quarterback in the defense’s stifling performance.
He built on that in 2017, posting 59 tackles, 9.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in 16 games, the first time he’s played a full season in his career.
It was also by far the best campaign of his young career, showing off the upside that made him the top overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft and earning him another Pro Bowl bid.
In 2018, he notched 47 tackles and nine sacks, a forced fumble and three fumble recoveries. Pro Football Focus gave him a grade of 87.6 for the season, 11th among edge-rushers.
Paired with J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus, Clowney gives the Texans arguably the most dangerous front seven in all of football and one of the better defenses, period. That defense powered the Texans to playoff berths in 2016 and 2018, and young players like Clowney, quarterback Deshaun Watson and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins will be expected to continue contending for the foreseeable future.