South Carolina Football: How Jadeveon Clowney got his groove back

Former South Carolina football great Jadeveon Clowney has gotten his groove back with the Baltimore Ravens. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
Former South Carolina football great Jadeveon Clowney has gotten his groove back with the Baltimore Ravens. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports /

It’s been 25 years since Stella got her groove back in the 1998 film How Stella Got Her Groove Back, and it feels like almost that long ago when Jadeveon Clowney was dominating college offensive lines and putting fear in the hearts of quarterbacks and running backs everywhere. In reality, though, the South Carolina football star finished his career as a Gamecock 10 years ago.

Since being drafted 1st-overall in the 2014 NFL Draft, Clowney has had an up-and-down career that has been defined largely by injuries. He missed much of his rookie campaign with the Houston Texans due to a knee issue. He eventually got mostly healthy and put up three straight Pro Bowl seasons, including one All-Pro year in 2016.

During those seasons, Clowney was regarded as one of the top run-stopping EDGE players in the NFL, and he also tallied over 25 sacks. Injuries began to rear their ugly head again for Clowney, however. Other than one season with the Cleveland Browns in 2021 (a year in which he had 9 sacks), Clowney hasn’t started more than 11 games in any season since his Pro Bowl days.

Now, in 2023, Jadeveon Clowney is healthy. After signing with the Baltimore Ravens during the preseason (and, perhaps, saving his body some wear and tear by avoiding training camp?), Clowney became a big contributor almost immediately.

After a week of getting his feet wet with his new team (ironically, in a game against his old team, the Houston Texans), Clowney had a nice game in week 2 as he picked up a sack, another tackle for loss, and four total stops. He had some nice pressure games over the next three weeks but only tallied half of a sack.

Then, this weekend, the newly minted #24 had his best game in purple and black. Against the Tennessee Titans (another former team for Clowney), he racked up 9 quarterback hurries and made it home to the quarterback twice for his first two-sack performance since 2021. Clowney was one of the players of the game for Baltimore in the one-score victory.

On the season, Clowney is tied for 7th in the entire NFL in quarterback hurries, tied with last season’s NFL Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa. He also has more sacks than Bosa and more sacks than Bosa’s Pro Bowl brother Joey.

So, what’s changed for Clowney to see him play at his South Carolina football level once again?

Only two major changes have happened for Clowney.

The first, and most obvious change, is that he is healthy. Clowney has had one healthy season in the NFL over his previous four years, and he was really good in 2021 with Cleveland. Should it really be a surprise to see him play really well now that he feels like himself?

The second is less obvious to the casual fan, but Clowney is back in a 3-4 defensive scheme. A 3-4 allows the best use of his skills as a player who can play both with his hand in the dirt at defensive end and standing up as an EDGE player.

Clowney’s best years in the NFL came with the Houston Texans in a 3-4. The Titans ran a 3-4, as well, but he was injured for most of the season. Playing in Seattle and Cleveland was never a great fit as it limited Clowney to only defensive end duty.

Now healthy and playing in the hybrid role he always should have been in, Jadeveon Clowney is back to being the Jadeveon Clowney that South Carolina football fans remember as the most terrifying defensive presence in college football in recent years.

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