Texans still waiting for DE Clowney to return

Texans fans have waited patiently for it.

Waited patiently for the chance to see a healthy J.J. Watt paired all season long with the run-stuffing, whirlwind known as Jadeveon Clowney.

Nearly two weeks into camp, the wait continues as Clowney, entering a critical contract year, has yet to engage in a full practice with his Houston teammates as he continues to get right from a minor knee surgery in January.

"When we feel like he's in football shape, we'll put him on the field," Texans coach Bill O'Brien said Sunday, per ESPN's Sarah Barshop.

O'Brien returned Tuesday with a slightly sunnier update on one of the team's most imposing defensive assets, saying: "I think Clowney's getting better and better, being closer and closer to being able to do more and more. We'll see how it goes. Probably do a little bit more next week in preparation for San Francisco. See how that week goes, and then, at the end of that week, make a decision relative to [the] L.A. [Rams] and things like that. We've got a good plan for him, and he's doing a good job. He's working at it."

Clowney has dabbled in team drills, but spent most of camp working on his own. Still, defensive ends coach Anthony Weaver offered a dose of optimism for a player who led the team last year with a career-high 9.5 sacks.

"He's been very limited in terms of what he's done on the field, but he looks great," Weaver said. "I know [the plan is] to get him as physically strong as we can, just so hopefully we can avoid some of those injuries he's had in the past that have nagged him throughout the season."

Whatever it takes. The Texans are angling to help one a key cog achieve full liftoff before the real games begin. Nagged by knee issues throughout his career, Clowney's primary task is to be ready for the club's Week 1 clash with the New England Patriots.

After all, this is what Houston -- and its fans -- envisioned from the start: Watt and Clowney kicking up grass, tossing blockers to the dirt, and making life tough out of the gate for a 41-year-old Tom Brady.