Chris Clemons returns: Does he still matter?


Chris Clemons is back for the Jacksonville Jaguars and is ready to start practicing.

Reportedly in “very good condition” Clemons figures to be able to plug in and play for the Jaguars as their primary pass rusher. This should be good news for the Jaguars, but is Chris Clemons really still relevant?

Don’t get me wrong, the Jacksonville Jaguars could use a veteran’s presence, especially because the core of the pass rushing group is so young.

But this is mostly a matter of production.

The Jaguars have other veteran defensive linemen to provide mentorship and knowledge. Guys like Sen’Derrick Marks, Roy Miller, and even Tyson Alualu can fill that role. They may not be able to provide high pass rushing production, however.

So, can Clemons still deliver? Is he still relevant to the Jaguars’ plans?

With guys like Andre Branch, Ryan Davis, Lordly “Cap” Capi, and Chris Smith all with the potential to deliver a pass rush, Clemons may not be as necessary as he was when the Jags first brought him in.

What he does provide is a consistent threat on the outside and that may be tougher to replace. As noted by others, Clemons may not have been a returner for the Jaguars if Fowler had not been injured. The Jags, with their young pass rushers trying to make names for themselves, may be in a position to replace Clemons even without Fowler.

While Clemons isn’t worried about missed time, he should be. At age 33, he may not be worried about his body slowing down but he should be worried about younger guys surpassing him as they bring potential that the Jaguars might be more interested in. There’s nothing sexier than a young pass rusher and no matter how “proven” Clemons is over his career, if someone like Capi can push him for a roster spot then the Jags may be more interested in the younger player.

Those snaps Clemons wasn’t around for could have been snaps he used to show he still had it.

Instead we’re impressed by the young guys and Clemons has to rely on his record with the team. Is it good enough?

In his first season with the Jaguars last year, Clemons provided eight sacks. That was just a half sack behind team leader Sen’Derrick Marks. Those pretty sack numbers are deceptive, however.

Chris Clemons was the second-lowest graded 4-3 defensive end by Pro Football Focus for the 2014 regular season (among defensive ends with at least 25% of snaps). Among those defensive ends, his -18.4 grade was the worst for defensive ends with at least 605 snaps.

PFF grades shouldn’t be taken as gospel, but they do an excellent job of tracking every snap a player makes. As a pass rusher only, Clemons still doesn’t come out too pretty. When measuring pass rush productivity, Clemons was the 46th ranked player in the NFL. He came in behind fellow Jaguar Andre Branch and his 5.8 score as only one point higher than that of Tyson Alualu.

His productivity on pass rushing snaps isn’t high enough to justify keeping him on the field when he isn’t a complete defender at his position. He came in ranked 42nd in run stop percentage by PFF. He was behind former-Jaguar Red Bryant, Alualu, and Branch.

Overall, the sacks are nice (three of them came against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 3)  but he just isn’t producing at such a high level that he is worth keeping around. He’s a professional and he has the skills to turn it around, but there are other tempting options for the Jags to consider as well.

At this point we need to evaluate Chris Clemons beyond just his sack record. It’s a decent record but the consistent pressure the Jaguars were hoping Fowler could provide wasn’t provided by Clemons last season and may not be provided again. Clemons could be replaced and it may not be a bad thing for the Jags.

Next: Jacksonville Jaguars are set for an improved record

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