Even though he had his moments, defensive end Clelin Ferrell was a bit of a disappointment as a rookie last season after the Raiders selected him with the fourth overall pick of the 2019 NFL Draft out of Clemson.
However, Coach Jon Gruden hasn’t given up on the 23-year-old Ferrell, and in fact, has some big plans for him this season.
The 6-foot-4 Ferrell bulked up with about 15 pounds of added muscle during offseason workouts and now weighs in at about 275, making Gruden look at him in a bit of a different light.
The Raiders thinking about moving him around on the defensive line.
“Well, we hope everybody has the versatility to go inside,” Gruden said when asked about Ferrell possibly playing defensive tackle. “I remember when I was in Green Bay when Reggie White said he found a guy (on another team), a candy bar, he wanted to take a big bite out of him. If there was a weak link on the offensive line, Reggie White wanted to go after him.
“So, we want all of our defensive lineman to have the versatility to play inside. If there’s a weak link somewhere, or there’s a game that we want to try to exploit stunt-wise, we’d like everybody to have that versatility on third down, certainly. But, we think ‘Cle’ can bat some balls down, we think he can do a lot of things as a rusher inside and out, eventually.”
Ferrell, the 2018 Ted Hendricks Award winner, started last season at about 262 pounds, but was hit with a bout of food poisoning on the Raiders’ trip to London in Week 5 and lost so much weight that he played the rest of the season at under 250.
Even so, Ferrell played some of his best football in the second half of the season and promised to come back a new man.
“You probably won’t even recognize me, seriously,” Ferrell said, telling reporters that he was going home to Miami to begin a rigorous offseason training program in order to get bigger and stronger. “I’m excited (for the 2020 season).”
Of his rookie season, Ferrell said: “It was a large learning experience that was mainly a lot of fun. There were ups and downs, good times, and bad times, but the main thing was learning to push through obstacles during the entire season. That was something I enjoyed learning how to do, and it showed me I need to grow up in a few areas.
“ … I had never missed a game due to an illness, but that was terrible. I was going to try to play through it. I thought rest would do it, but it really sat me down. That was tough because it didn’t just affect me for that game. It stuck with me for upcoming games because I lost so much weight. It was a test and a learning experience for sure.”
Ferrell has yet to speak with reporters about his added weight, apparently wanting to wait and let his performance do the talking.
However, Gruden and others including Gil Brandt, the Pro Football Hall of Famer who was a revered talent executive for the Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers, and Dallas Cowboys, have been talking about him.
Brandt listed Ferrell at No. 4 in a list of nine defensive linemen he expects to have breakthrough seasons in 2020.
“Ferrell finished his rookie season with a paltry 4.5 sacks and 38 tackles in 15 games,” according to The Brandt Report. “But he’s now determined to show the Raiders did not make a mistake by passing on Josh Allen—who led all rookies with 10.5 sacks last season with the Jaguars—to take him with the first of their three first-round picks. Ferrell, who actually lost 15 pounds at one point last season due to food poisoning, added heft to his frame this offseason, and he should be better prepared to provide inside pressure when called upon, something he was thrust into doing as a rookie despite not being used in that fashion at Clemson. The attention that opponents will give to 2019 breakout rookie Maxx Crosby should provide Ferrell with more one-on-one blocking opportunities to exploit. Ferrell should also benefit from the addition of Carl Nassib and Maliek Collins.”
The 6-5, 255-pound Crosby, selected in the fourth round (No. 105 overall) of the same 2019 Draft out of Eastern Michigan, played the way the Raiders expected Crosby too, leading the team with 10 sacks to go with 47 tackles, four forced fumbles, and four pass deflections.
This season and in years to come, except when Ferrell moves inside, the Silver and Black could have dynamic bookends.
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