JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Now that we've gotten past the combine and the NFL draft is little more than a month away, it's time to enter the tear-down season in earnest.
That's when flaws in each prospect are highlighted, discussed and debated endlessly. All the praise these players earned throughout the college football season and into January is put aside and they're nitpicked to death. It's a vital part of the process as teams try to pare down their draft board.
When it comes to former South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, there's no secret what concerns teams: His drive and willingness to go hard on every play. He was inconsistent with his effort, which is a fancier way of saying that he takes plays off.
Jacksonville Jaguars coach Gus Bradley doesn't seem to be overly concerned about that, though. Mainly because he's wowed by the plays that Clowney did make, the fact the runs like a wide receiver at 6-foot-6, 266 pounds, and his athleticism.
"We will get a chance to visit with him more in-depth in the next couple of weeks, but I see enough plays where he's playing hard," Bradley said. "I do see him getting great rush and making great plays. I think it's our job as a coach to try to get that consistency. There have been some players that have come out of the draft that maybe you look at their effort in one way or another and you question it at times and [they] have made the next step to the NFL and it's not a question.
"I think you have to take that into account, but the number of plays he makes, the flash plays he makes and the effort plays he does have on tape, that's why he's such a high prospect."
Bradley dealt with the same kind of issue during his first season in Jacksonville, albeit with someone not quite as talented. Defensive end Andre Branch, the team's second-round draft pick in 2012, had a disappointing rookie season (20 tackles, one sack in 13 games) and didn't start the 2013 season much better. Branch was virtually invisible on the field and had just one sack in the first nine games.
But after more than half of a season of Bradley, defensive line coach Todd Wash and defensive coordinator Bob Babich working with Branch on playing with consistent effort, Branch started to come around. He had five of his six sacks in the last seven games.
Clowney may not be on the board when it's the Jaguars' turn to pick in the first round. He may not be their choice if he is, anyway. But if he does end up in Jacksonville, the Jaguars already have proved they can get a guy who takes plays off to give consistent effort.
With Clowney, that could be downright scary.