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Ravens DE Jadeveon Clowney on playing team that drafted him No. 1: 'It's bigger than just worrying about the Texans'

There's been just one previous playoff matchup between the Baltimore Ravens and Houston Texans.

It took place in the 2011 Divisional Round, with John Harbaugh coaching his Ravens past the Texans and DeMeco Ryans, though the latter was playing linebacker and not Houston's head coach, as he will be Saturday.

However, there's at least one Ravens player with plenty of familiarity with the Texans beyond just this season.

Jadeveon Clowney, who the Texans took with the 2014 NFL Draft's No. 1 overall pick, will face off with his former squad for the fifth time Saturday, but for the first time in the playoffs. For the 30-year-old, though, what's at stake in the Divisional Round supersedes any type of revenge factor.

"To me, it's the next game up," Clowney said Thursday, via team transcript. "I just want to win, because it's the playoffs; it's bigger than just worrying about the Texans. There is much more at stake. It's either win or go home. And we want to get away with this win so we can keep fighting for the goal we've been fighting for all year. What you do all of this for is to try to get to that Super Bowl and win it."

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The Ravens stand as Clowney's fifth NFL team. He played five years in Houston, earning a trio of Pro Bowl trips, before stints with the Seattle Seahawks, Tennessee Titans, Cleveland Browns and his arrival in Baltimore. Since 2018 -- his final year with Houston -- Clowney has played the Texans four times and he's been on the winning side in each.

His most recent matchup versus the team that drafted him No. 1 was in Week 1 of this season.

The Ravens flew past the Texans for a 25-9 victory.

Much has changed since then, of course. Most notably, Houston rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud, the No. 2 overall pick of the 2023 NFL Draft, has become a single-season star, showing the poise of a veteran, the skills of Pro Bowler and the statistics to rank among the NFL's elite.

Clowney, just like others within the Ravens’ halls, knows he'll see a different version of Stroud than when he first played against the debuting Ohio State product.

"He just doesn't look like a rookie quarterback out there," said Clowney, who's one of three former No. 1 overall picks remaining in the postseason (Jared Goff and Baker Mayfield are the others). "He's making smart decisions with his passing and putting those guys in good situations and not turning it over as much -- I think that's good for their side -- and he's executing, getting the ball out his hand fast. So, for us, we've just got to execute our game plan and disguise and be on the same page, so we [can] try to get to him."

Clowney wasn't able to get to Stroud for a sack in Week 1, though he did get credit for one QB hit. As Clowney was quick to point out, when Stroud was making his NFL debut, he was making his Ravens debut less than a month after signing with the squad.

"Yes, I was coming off the couch, too, that time," Clowney laughed. "Yes, so, as he got better, I got better.

"Like I said, it's been a long journey throughout the season since the first game. I was coming off the couch, missing tackles, missing sacks. But I've been working, getting better throughout the season, and that's what you shoot for. It's a process of getting better and keeping working on your craft throughout the season and see where you end up in December and January. So, we're here now. He got better, we got better, and we're going to see what happens."

Though Clowney's 4-0 versus his former team, he's never had a sack against the Texans. He's never played in a postseason game beyond the Divisional Round, either. All that could change Saturday.

"I'm in Year 10, and you never know how many more you've got left," he said. "I've been in the game 10 years and haven't been this far; [I] haven't won or gotten a bye -- that first-round bye -- ever. So, this is big for me and -- in my career -- where I'm at. I just hope I can continue to help this team and help us get our long-term goal, [which] is to win a Super Bowl. And like I said, we've got to knock the Texans off just to do that."

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