This is where people get confused. Technique is the most underrated aspect in football. In football, how you get the job done really is far more important than getting the job done in predicting future performance.
People forget how young Clowney is. He was a rotational piece during his Freshman year, and he was still figuring things out last year in his first year as a full-time starter. As the season progressed, he got better and better. As he was getting better, coaches had limited time to prepare for him and limited resources to do it. Now, coaches had a full offseason, and every offensive line that is on South Carolina’s schedule spent more time studying Clowney than any other defensive player they would see the rest of the season. Honestly, many teams probably spent more time on Clowney than they spent on the rest of the SC defense. And no player is perfect, so they have found ways to neutralize his impact. SC has lost a lot of talent these past couple years, and the rest of the team is not making opponents pay for focusing on Clowney.
But this guy is still the best. A great example is how Ndamukong Suh dominated in his rookie year of the NFL, and his next year was not nearly as good. Suh didn’t get soft or lazy; he just did the same things that had always worked for him before. NFL teams adapted, and it hurt Suh’s performance. They were able to focus on stopping Suh and take their chances with the guys around him. Now that Detroit has more talent around him, teams can no longer completely focus on Suh, and he is once again seen as one of the most dominant defensive linemen in the entire league.
Any defensive player's impact can be neutralized by an offense's gameplan. Darrelle Revis has never led the league in interceptions, but that's because teams don't throw at him. Whenever you see a player have a great sack season, there is almost always another guy who has a very good sack season on that team. Anthony Spencer with DeMarcus Ware, Brooks Reed with JJ Watt, Justin and Osi with JPP and Strahan. They need those other guys in order to put up historical numbers. Right now, Clowney is so much better than his teammates that teams would rather take chances on the other 10 guys on the field, and it's really tough to put up stats if that's the case.
I always want to look at a player’s best plays, because it lets you look at the ceiling of a player. There is no defensive player with a higher ceiling than Clowney. That hasn’t changed, and that is the type of thing I want to acquire if I’m an NFL team.