Crennel on Clowney: ‘He’s got to earn his spot’

Crennel on Clowney: ‘He’s got to earn his spot’
June 10, 2014, 5:30 pm
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Houston Texans first-round draft pick Jadeveon Clowney speaks during a press conference at Reliant Stadium.

(USA Today Sports Images)

Jadeveon Clowney was the No. 1 overall pick in the draft in May. He had a fantastic career at South Carolina and was considered by many to be the best player in the draft class.

But that doesn’t mean much anymore. Now, he’s a rookie, doing rookie things, trying to earn his spot.

“I’m one of those guys who, I feel like guys have to earn their position,” said Texans defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel in his first podium media session since taking the job. “So Clowney, I know he’s the No. 1, but he’s got to earn his spot, in my eyes. So he’s just trying to learn and if he learns, then chances are, he’ll get playing time. If he doesn’t learn, then he probably won’t get as much playing time. That is where (Whitney) Mercilus, he’s going to be there and he’s going to play. If it’s Brooks (Reed), Brooks is going to play. I still feel like I can go out there and line up. Now with Clowney and his ability, if he comes along, then Brooks having the ability to go inside just makes us better I believe.”

Crennel said Clowney has good athletic ability, size, speed and “deceptive strength” but also added that Clowney needs to get better in pass coverage and route recognition, some things that will come with more practice reps.

Clowney is making the transition from a college defensive end to an outside linebacker in the NFL. Earlier during OTAs, head coach Bill O’Brien said the team is teaching Clowney (and the others) the position a package at a time. Crennel said, though, that there’s no timetable set for when Clowney should learn everything because players learn at different rates.

But to get an idea that Clowney would be able to make the transition to an outside ‘backer in the NFL, Crennel attended the South Carolina pro day on April 2. There, Crennel was seen taking over a part of Clowney’s workout. The veteran coach said he wanted to see how Clowney looked in a two-point stance, dropping in coverage and flipping his hips. He saw enough to be convinced that he could.

“I think that he’s coming along fine,” Crennel said. “He’s studious, he’s studying, he’s trying to learn the system. He’s making that transition a little bit. But it hasn’t seemed to slow him down or hinder him. Now, he’s still a rookie and I tell everybody: rookies are making rookie mistakes. That’s what they do.

“And until he can get settled and feel confident in all of his assignments, then he can become reactive, then I think that he’ll show better at that time. But right now, his head is spinning, just like all the rookies, all their heads are spinning because we’ve thrown a lot at them. But they’re working at it. They make their mistakes, they learn, they come back the next day and try to improve and not make the same mistakes again.”