When the Houston Texans drafted Jadeveon Clowney No. 1 overall in 2014, the franchise expected the defensive end to form a lethal tandem with J.J. Watt, the eventual NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

However, injuries derailed Clowney’s 2014 campaign, and he sustained multiple setbacks that ultimately led to microfracture surgery on his right knee last December.

But on Monday, the former South Carolina standout returned to the practice field. According to ESPN’s Tania Ganguli, Clowney was happy to train against something other than an inanimate object.

“It’s going to be great to be out there, rushing the passer, putting my hands on guys. I’ve been hitting these dummies for so long. Nobody hits back.”

Clowney appeared in four games as a rookie and recorded seven tackles. He was far from a fixture in the lineup, though, playing on Sep. 7, Oct. 26, Nov. 16 and Nov. 23 before undergoing surgery.

If the Texans get a healthy Clowney for the 2015 season, their defense could be quite intimidating. Houston added defensive tackle Vince Wilfork to demand double-teams in the middle, which should only help Watt on the edge. The threat of Clowney rushing from the opposite side is exciting, to say the least.

Clowney won’t be rushed back into action and probably won’t appear in a preseason contest, but hopefully the second-year defender is ready for the season-opener on Sep. 13 against the Kansas City Chiefs.