HOUSTON (CBS HOUSTON) — Texans fans finally got a relatively full-time look at J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney opposite each other — with a hand in the turf pre-snap — on the defensive line.
The early returns were more than encouraging.
They were downright dominant in the second half of Houston’s season-opening 23-14 win over Chicago on Sunday afternoon in NRG Stadium.
It started with Clowney, who finally looked fully healthy after battling a myriad of knee injuries that derailed the high expectations of his first two seasons.
“I could say it was [the healthiest I’ve felt], yeah, I felt pretty good,” Clowney said, admitting he hasn’t felt that good as a pro since his rookie debut in 2014. “I hope to stay healthy and keep getting wins.”
Clowney flashed his physical skills during a pair of strong preseason outings last month. There was still the understandable doubt until he consistently does it when the games count.
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler and left tackle Kyle Long probably don’t have those same doubts after Clowney’s afternoon.
The former No. 1 overall draft pick recorded a sack, two tackles for a loss and hit Cutler three times. That performance spearheaded a shutout effort in the second half as Houston came from behind twice to handle Chicago for a 1-0 start.
Clowney said he enjoyed playing with a hand in the turf, although it means mixing it up with the big boys on the line.
“I’m down there fighting with 315-pound lineman, so it’s not always fun,” he said with a chuckle. “You have to do your job and go out there and do what your team needs…
“It’s not really different, because I played down in a stance all college, so it’s second nature for me.”
That’s a scary sign for the rest of the league, especially with Watt playing opposite him. And as for Watt, who returned from a major back surgery with little season preparation?
Clowney said Watt’s presence was just as noticeable.
“He came out there and didn’t contribute [on the stat line] as you said but I think he did. X-plays count, when you get double teamed or force other guys to make plays and that’s what we did tonight.”