Texans won’t hand Jadeveon Clowney’s starting job back immediately

AP

The Texans took No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney to Pittsburgh with them Monday, but didn’t rush him back onto the field.

Likewise, his place in the starting lineup isn’t a given when he does return, according to Texans coach Bill O’Brien.

With a long layoff after sports hernia surgery and his replacement Whitney Mercilus playing well (two sacks against the Steelers), O’Brien said they will ease Clowney back into the rotation.

“He played a tough football game,” O’Brien said of Mercilus, via Brian Smith of the Houston Chronicle. “He’s one of the more improved guys on our team from when we got here last winter.

When J.D. comes back, he’ll have to work back into the mix. That’s not just something that’s going to be handed to him, that’s for sure. Whitney’s played well enough to deserve playing time, that’s for sure, and that’ll be a competition. …

“You don’t just hand it to a guy coming off of six weeks being out, especially when the other guy has played pretty well.”

Of course, the Texans didn’t bypass other needs to take a player such as Clowney for him to be a part-timer, so that adjustment period likely won’t be long. But having multiple pass-rush threats will help.

O’Brien said Clowney’s cutting ability wasn’t quite where he had hoped in pre-game warmups, so the decision to deactivate him was easy. That means this week in practice will likely determine whether and how much Clowney will play against the Titans Sunday.