HOUSTON (AP) — It's almost enough to make a defensive coordinator drool.
Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, the Houston Texans' No. 1 pick in the draft, was on the field Tuesday for the first time with former NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt. As both players get used to new defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, Clowney has eyes on the All-Pro as he eases into the NFL in offseason workouts.
"Just watching him work it makes you want to work even more," Clowney said. "Sometimes we maybe go into an extra workout with him. He's a team guy. Always says he can help you no matter what. (I'm) just happy to be beside him out there on the field."
The defensive playmaker out of South Carolina's speed and ability had scouts fawning over his potential years ago — and now the number of ways he can be deployed in a 3-4 defense. Part of that potential involves getting Clowney and Watt on the field together in games. With the departure of Antonio Smith to the Oakland Raiders in free agency, Watt will need a foil. While Clowney is expected to see time at both outside linebacker and as a defensive end, having him on the other side of Watt could take up that slack.
Still, it is early in camp and Watt knows what Clowney is going through. While the expectations are high, things will take time. "I don't know enough yet to tell you. We're in just helmets right now," Watt said when asked about Clowney's potential impact. "I know he's in the playbook and he's working hard. As we go forward we'll see a lot more."
Clowney's first goal, like that of all the rookies, is to transition to his team and to the NFL. For Clowney, that includes learning the playbook and even learning names. "For any rookie it's very difficult to make the jump from college to pro. It doesn't really matter if they were drafted number one or undrafted, they're all trying to learn and keep pace with the veterans," coach Bill O'Brien said. "I think he's doing a decent job of and he's working hard at it."
Star receiver Andre Johnson was absent from the session. One of the franchise's marquee players, Johnson said two weeks ago that he would not attend Texans workouts. "I said last week that he and I have had positive conversations," O'Brien said. "I have a ton of respect for him. We'd love to have him here right now, but that's up to him. We're moving forward with the players that are here and these guys are working extremely hard."
With Johnson's absence and a quarterback competition that is open and far from solved, Houston's defense could be called upon to carry the load early in the season. A big part of that equation will be figuring out how to best deploy playmakers such as Watt and Clowney.