Could work ethic concerns drop Clowney to Raiders?

Could work ethic concerns drop Clowney to Raiders?
February 22, 2014, 12:00 pm
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In three years at South Carolina, Jadeveon Clowney had 47 tackles for loss and 24 sacks. (AP)

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Jadeveon Clowney wants to be one of the greatest pass rushers of all time. The South Carolina defensive end certainly has the talent worthy of such classification, but being the best requires hard work. Lots of it.

According to Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier, Clowney’s work ethic is pretty pedestrian. That comment, plus a severe statistical drop between 2012 and ’13, gave reporters reason to attack during a Saturday press conference at the NFL Scouting Combine. It will certainly lead to a harsh line of questioning during individual team interviews over the course of this event.

Quelling those concerns are as important as any drill this weekend.

“I believe I did work hard in college,” Clowney told reporters on hand. “Turn on the practice tape from last season and you’ll see that. I’m always going to be working hard no matter where I end up. I’m going to give the team that selects me everything I’ve got.”

NFL Network analyst said Saturday that work ethic concerns are legit and could keep Clowney from being the first non-quarterback selected in the NFL draft.

The Raiders sure hope so. While Clowney isn’t expected to be available at No. 5 overall, it’s hard to imagine the Raiders skipping him if he is. Head coach Dennis Allen said he wants to compete in the AFC West’s talented offenses with an intimidating defense that pressures the quarterback.

Clowney would certainly help that effort. He’s the best 4-3 pass rushing defensive end in this draft. He’s a freakish physical specimen, standing 6-foot-5 and 266 pounds with a massive 83-inch wingspan. Teaming Clowney with a re-signed Lamarr Houston (or another end of his ilk) would bring instant credibility to a Raiders defense hoping to create pressure in a standard four-man rush.

A super-human Combine effort on Monday could hurt the Raiders cause and ensure that he doesn’t last five picks. The expectations for Clowney will be high regardless of draft status. They certainly were in college, and they will be when he starts playing on Sundays. Clowney’s fine with that, because his expectations are just as high.

“I just want to be the best, one of the greatest of all time,” Clowney said. “The NFL is just the next level, stepping stone in my way. Coming out of high school, I said I wanted to be one of the best in college and I think I proved that. Going to the NFL, I want to be one of the best in the NFL, go down in history as one of the best, so I have another stepping stone in my way and hopefully take care of business and accomplish that in the NFL.”