After years of mediocrity, the Las Vegas Raiders decided to address the defensive line heavily this offseason. The team signed several players, including Yannick Ngakoue, Solomon Thomas and many more. In 2019, the Raiders drafted Clelin Ferrell with the No. 4 overall pick. Last offseason, the team gave Carl Nassib a three-year, $25 million contract. The two combined for 4.5 sacks last season, which obviously wasn’t good enough.
Both guys are entering a very important year and could quickly become afterthoughts if they don’t play well. Head coach Jon Gruden has already put the two on notice during training camp.
“Ferrell, he’s a good player,” Gruden told reporters last week. “He’s unique because he can play right end, he can play left end, he’s a good run defender. I think his best pass rush might be inside – and you saw that against the Jets when we allowed him to do that last year. But certainly, he’s going to be competing, he and Carl Nassib, who had a really good spring. They’re going to have to earn their snaps, and if you know Cle, you know he will compete. And you probably should count on him being a big part of this.”
As of right now, Maxx Crosby and Ngakoue are the likely starters at the two defensive end spots. Ferrell and Nassib will have to fight for snaps. That doesn’t mean that either one of them can’t carve out an impactful role.
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Ferrell Says He’s a Man Now
While Ferrell’s stats aren’t overly impressive, that doesn’t mean he’s played poorly. In fact, he was rated as the 32nd best defensive end in the NFL by Pro Football Focus. He will never turn into the superstar pass rusher the Raiders hoped he would be but he’s a very good run defender.
Ferrell believes that he’s much more prepared for the mental side of football these days.
“I’m a man now,” Ferrell said last week. “When I first came into the league, I thought I was. There were a lot of things that I was worrying about, whether it was paying my first bill or the mortgage, trying to understand where do you buy furniture … dealing with the pressures of being a high first-round pick.
“A lot of things when I first came into the league hit me. But now I feel like I am a grown man. There’s nothing that can really throw me off. I know what to expect and what to look for.”
Ferrell Wants Defense to Be More Impactful
Over the last two seasons, the Raiders’ defense has largely been the reason why the team has struggled. Right now, fans would be happy if they could just field an average unit. However, Ferrell isn’t satisfied with average. He wants the defense to impact wins and losses in a major way.
“Forget about holding our own, we’re trying to be the reason why,” Ferrel said. “We want to be the reason why we win, we want to be the reason why other teams fear us, the reason why we get to play for Super Bowls.
“We want to write our own narrative and have our own identity.”