The Las Vegas Raiders may not have gotten what they expected from Clelin Ferrell, but he can still be a key for this defense in 2021.
Before the 2018 NFL season, the then-Oakland Raiders and their head coach, Jon Gruden, did what was deemed unthinkable. The Silver and Black traded away Khalil Mack, one of the best defensive players in the game, and someone in their prime, and under contract, bringing back a few first-round draft picks among other assets.
An NFL Defensive Player of the Year with the Raiders, Mack was a player that the fan base had hoped would play his whole career with the organization, so this was a shocking blow. To make matters worse, Bruce Irvin, who was supposed to step up in his place, was downright terrible, and with the No. 4 overall pick in 2019, an edge rusher had to be on their way to save the Raiders.
Oakland did in fact pick an edge rusher, but it was not Josh Allen from Kentucky, seen as the No. 2 edge rusher in the class behind Nick Bosa. No, the pick was Clemson’s Clelin Ferrell, a two-time national champion, but nowhere need the prospect that Allen was in terms of the Raiders’ need for a pass rusher.
Since being drafted, Ferrell has not become a guy who can get after the quarterback, though a fourth-round pick in that same draft, Maxx Crosby, did. After two seasons of no real impact in terms of sacks, the Raiders have pulled the plug on Ferrell being a starting defensive end, bringing in Yannick Ngakoue, but Ferrell can still have a big impact on this defense.
Raiders need Ferrell’s versatility in 2021
To utilize Ferrell the correct way, Gruden and new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley will use the third-year defensive lineman up and down the line. Ferrell will get his chances on the outside, that is for sure, but he is also going to move inside and help against the run, something he has proven he can do since coming into the league.
Overall, he is not going to give the production you would expect from a No. 4 overall pick, but he is also someone the coaching staff is not going to be afraid to lean on. He will be expected to make plays in Year 3, proving that he does not have to rack up a lot of sacks to be valuable.
The Las Vegas Raiders are always a team full of surprises, and that is no different when it comes to their 53 man roster heading into Week 1.
When it comes to the defensive line, the Raiders have bolstered it in a major way, and Ferrell is not going to be lost in the shuffle. He is going to play inside and out for the Raiders in 2021, and before it is all said and done, he could be very productive within Bradley’s offense this season, and beyond.