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Defensive Notes

Jadeveon Clowney

Panthers hope they get impact version

Carolina signed Jadeveon Clowney this week. Yay? There's nowhere to go but up for Carolina's defense in fantasy terms -- it ranked last in both sacks and takeaways a year ago. But much more is needed for it to become relevant.

Making things worse, the addition of Clowney is more than offset by the loss of Brian Burns, traded to the Giants for second- and fifth-round picks. Burns has 46 sacks in 80 games the last five seasons, an average of just over 9 per year. He turns 26 next month, still squarely in his prime.

Clowney has played 46 more games (126) since being drafted back in 2014. He has just 6.5 more sacks (52.5). Everyone can't be Burns, but definitely a net loss for the Panthers, even before factoring in that Clowney is five years older.

In any case, the Panthers had to do something to upgrade their pass rush, Burns or no, and Clowney was that kind of player a year ago in Baltimore. He had 9.5 of the team's 60 sacks. He's 31, but he can still play.

Looking at the whole of his career, though, he's been hit or miss, which might be part of why he hasn't stayed anywhere for long of late. In his nine mostly healthy seasons, he's been part of above-average pass rushes four times, and below-average ones five times.

The below table shows Clowney's year by year sack totals (not counting his rookie season of 2014, when he played in only four games), and the performance of the defense he played for in both sacks and the other key fantasy area, takeaways. Last column shows fantasy ranking in a scoring system that awards 1 point for sacks, 2 for takeaways and 6 for all touchdowns. Twice he's been part of top 5 groups, but four other times those defenses ranked 20th or worse.

JADEVEON CLOWNEY DEFENSES
YearTeamClowneySacksTakeFF
2015Houston4.5452512th
2016Houston6.0311721st
2017Houston9.5321621st
2018Houston9.043294th
2019Seattle3.0283213th
2020Tennessee0.0192323rd
2021Cleveland9.0431920th
2022Cleveland2.0342016th
2023Baltimore9.560312nd

In general, I'd rather Clowney had joined a good defense that he could help make great, rather than a poor one that probably will still be below-average. (Especially in fantasy terms: Carolina, oddly, ranked in the top 5 in yards allowed last year, but the bottom 5 in points allowed, some of which had to do with how much their offense struggled, routinely losing field position battles.)

I'm a lot more interested in the Giants with Burns than the Panthers with Clowney.

--Andy Richardson

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