With only 96 days until the opening game of 2020, we start the count down with the best Raiders player at every jersey number. Today we focus on No. 96.
With the season a few months away, we take a look at the best player to wear the jersey number of the number of days left before the opener on September 13, 2020 against Carolina. That game will kick off the new era of Raiders football.
We continue our series with No. 96.
There have been a number of talented players, primarily defensive lineman and linebackers, to wear the number 96 jersey. In the past decade or so, Kamerion Wimbley was the standout player to wear 96 in Silver and Black. In two seasons with the Raiders as an outside linebacker, Wimbley recorded 16 sacks, 33 QB hits, and an interception. Denico Autry is a viable candidate as he played well for the Raiders from 2014-17 before making his way to the Colts in free agency.
These days it’s Clelin Ferrell who dons the 96 jersey and given his draft position and the hopes the team has for the young defensive end, one day his name should be the one forever tied to this number. Until that day comes, the best Raider to ever is another top pick who dominated on the defensive line.
Darrell Russell (1997-2001)
Darrell Russell was chosen by the Raiders with the second overall pick in the 1997 draft out of the University of Southern California. After an adjustment period in his rookie season, Russell exploded on to the scene in his sophomore season with 64 tackles, 10 sacks, and a place on the First-Team All Pro list. He followed up that season with another Pro Bowl year in 1999 as he recorded 45 tackles and 9.5 sacks.
Russell had all the makings of an all-time Raider and if his career continued on that trajectory he had a chance at being one of the best defensive lineman in the history of the NFL. A series of failed drug tests lead to some suspensions and an overall decline in his play as he couldn’t manage the off-field distractions caused by his own behavior.
His Raiders career was cut short after 75 games and he ended up missing the entire 2002 season due to a violation of the NFL’s substance abuse policy.
Despite the brief nature of his time with the Raiders, Russell was still easily the most dominant and best player to wear the 96 jersey. In 75 games with the Raiders, Russell recorded 28.5 sacks, 228 tackles, and even recorded an interception. He is just the third pure DT in the history of the Raiders to be named First-Team All Pro and was also named Second-Team All Pro after 1999 season.
Russell’s career is a perfect example of a supremely talented player that could not overcome the off-field demons but on the gridiron when he was wearing Silver and Black, that talent shone through and made him one of the best defensive players in the league.