Daeshon Hall mimicked Jadeveon Clowney this week, to help the Eagles’ offense prepare for Sunday’s meeting with the 8-2 Seattle Seahawks.
Hall wasn’t just working just off film. He literally understudied Clowney last season, when Hall spent slightly less than a month with the Houston Texans.
“I feel like I can do a little bit of everything,” said Hall, who was an Eagles training-camp fan favorite this summer after joining the team late last season. “I was with him at Houston a little bit last year, so I kind of know how he moves, a little bit. I try to do my best imitation.”
Hall is 6-foot-5, 265, pretty much the same size as Clowney (listed at 6-5, 255). But while Hall is a former third-round pick of the Panthers who has kicked around with the 49ers and Texans, Clowney was the first player chosen in the 2014 draft, and he made three Pro Bowls before a dispute over Houston’s use of the franchise tag led to a trade to the Seahawks just before the season.
Hall’s hard work might have been in vain. The Seahawks on Friday listed Clowney as “questionable,” and Seattle coach Pete Carroll said he would meet the team in Philadelphia after getting treatment for a hip injury at an undisclosed site. Carroll said Clowney’s participation would be a “game-time decision.”
Clowney, did not practice Wednesday, Thursday or Friday.
When healthy, Clowney can wreck a game, as he pretty much did on national TV when the Seahawks ended the 49ers’ unbeaten season on Nov. 11.
“He has a great change of direction. He can get off the ball real fast. He’s strong,” Hall said. “Got a lot of twitchiness, can make a good inside move and outside move.”
All true, as San Francisco discovered in its 27-24 overtime loss. Clowney notched five tackles, five quarterback hits, a sack, a forced fumble, and he recovered a fumble and returned it for a touchdown. Clowney was named NFC defensive player of the week for his performance.
“He had so many impact plays. Such a significant role in the night,” Carroll said. “I think he affected the guys around him, most obviously, in terms of our pass rush, pressure on the QB, and just the activity. This was his best game.”
Seattle moves Clowney around a lot, but he’ll normally line up pre-snap in front of Andre Dillard, the Eagles’ first-round rookie left tackle, who will play right tackle for the first time on Sunday. The Eagles officially ruled out Pro Bowl right tackle Lane Johnson on Friday, with a concussion.
Veteran Halapoulivaati Vaitai came in for Johnson during the second quarter of last Sunday’s loss to New England, and was alarmingly bad, to the extent that the coaching staff decided Dillard, with a week of prep, doing something he has never done, had to be better than sending Big V out against Clowney.
“You have to fall back on your technique,” Dillard said Friday, when asked about Clowney. “Don’t miss a beat.”
If there is hope for Dillard in this matchup, and for the 5-5 Eagles’ weapons-challenged offense in this game, beyond the possibility of Clowney not playing, it might lie in the fact that the Seahawks’ defensive front hasn’t really been great this season. And Clowney, hip injury aside, isn’t always the dominator he was against the 49ers. That’s the main reason he was available in the preseason trade – his representatives and the Texans couldn’t agree on his worth, after five seasons and two knee surgeries.
Clowney has three sacks, half as many as Brandon Graham, half-a-sack less than Derek Barnett, and one sack more than Nate Gerry. Pro Football Focus gives him an excellent 89.4 overall rating for this season, but there have been weeks – such as the Seahawks’ Week 3 loss to New Orleans – that haven’t been great.
Clowney garnered a 56.4 rating overall that week, lowlighted by two missed tackles. Overall, on PFF’s pass-rush productivity list, Clowney ranks 49th, with 32 hurries and nine QB hits. Graham ranks 22nd, with 36 and nine. But Graham is a steady, relentless “effort” player, listed at 6-2, 265; he lacks Clowney’s extraordinary gifts.
Eagles fans saw Clowney at the Linc last season, in the Eagles’ 32-30 victory over the Texans on Dec. 23. Clowney planted his helmet in Nick Foles’ ribs as Foles unloaded a third-and-10 completion to Alshon Jeffery. Clowney was flagged for roughing the passer. The completion and penalty went a long way toward setting up Jake Elliott’s game-winning 35-yard field goal.
“He got to get up,” Jeffery said afterward, when asked his thoughts as he stood watching Foles writhe on the turf. Jeffery, by the way, was Clowney’s teammate at South Carolina in 2011. A few years later, when Clowney was being discussed as a draft prospect, Jeffery predicted he would be a Hall of Famer. To date, his career has been a little too uneven, and injury-marred, to make that a cinch.
The hit on Foles came with Clowney rushing up the middle off a stunt, something the Eagles are going to have to watch out for on Sunday; in that Nov. 11 win over the 49ers, Clowney seemed to be coming at Jimmy Garoppolo from every angle. On Wikipedia, someone changed Garoppolo’s position from quarterback to “Jadeveon Clowney’s son.”
Afterward, asked about what Carroll called a “breakout game,” Clowney said: “I feel like I’ve been playing OK all season. I was getting after the quarterback, rushing at all of them, just not finishing and getting sacks and everything. This game was big.
“The talk coming into their game was about them. Just wanted to go out there and change the narrative. Let them know we’re still over here.”
Clowney is set to become a free agent this offseason, one of the factors that might have been involved in the Eagles’ decision not to try to trade for him. He told reporters this week that he is focusing on the season, and not on whether the Seahawks try to keep him.