Round 2 of the Jadeveon Clowney experiment was always going to be a failure, just nobody wanted to admit it (except a select few including myself). The fact Clowney in year two was a complete disappointment was not a surprise and the fact that he is looking for a new team (again) is not a shocking development. There is a reason why Clowney is bouncing around from team to team at this point in his career and his inconsistency is just a part of that equation. With that being said, the Browns need the recently acquired Za’Darius Smith to succeed where he failed.
Sure, at times Clowney was able to create chaos and disrupt plays. But it was uncontrolled chaos and disruption and that is just as useless as not creating anything at all. Cleveland will need Smith to be more like what they had in Olivier Vernon if this defense is going to rebound from being beyond awful.
Smith is better at getting to the quarterback than Vernon, and Clowney for that matter. With four straight full seasons of 23 or more quarterback hits, three of which produced double-digit sacks, Smith has the potential to be what people thought they were getting in Clowney.
A consistent presence opposite Myles Garrett will do wonders for the defense overall. Garrett has created the most turnovers via pressure since being drafted and adding someone like Smith should only see that number increase. This metric is key to the success or failure of the Browns defense. Cleveland’s tendency to win or lose usually follows Garrett’s ability to force a turnover in a game. If Smith (and others) can make that job easier, more wins should follow. If not, it is going to be another year watching this Browns defense and big picture changes may follow.