Clelin Ferrell Leads Las Vegas Raiders Defensive Revolution

The surging Las Vegas Raiders are watching Clelin Ferrell lead their defensive revolution.
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Everyone was talking about the Las Vegas Raiders defense and how it played in the second half in their upset of quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs last Sunday, but not much of the talk was about defensive end Clelin Ferrell.

Coach Jon Gruden changed that when speaking with reporters this week after he was asked if it might have been Ferrell’s best game with the Silver and Black.

“Yeah, it was,” Gruden said of the fourth overall pick of the 2019 NFL Draft out of Clemson. “I’m glad you brought his name up. The statistics don’t always show what a player does. Our factor grade, I thought he had 13 or 14 factor plays that really helped win this game.

“He played inside, he played outside, he showed the ability to convert his speed rush to power. He showed good chase and pursuit, great energy, and effort. That was his best game, I think, as a Raider, especially in the second half.

“ … If you look at the number of scrambles Mahomes had, the effort that we had to try to get him (was there).”

The 6-foot-4 Ferrell, who put on about 15 pounds before this season to reach 275 and now is able to play inside as well as on the end, had his moments in an overall disappointing rookie season in which he made only 4½ sacks.

Ferrell still doesn’t have any sacks in five games this season, but numbers can sometimes lie.

Against the Chiefs, Ferrell was credited with nine of the Raiders’ 32 pressures of Mahomes, and Pro Football Focus rated him as the third-highest graded edge defender of the week in the NFL.

Ferrell basically predicted this would happen in a radio interview before this season after being frustrated in games against Mahomes and the Chiefs last season.

“I was close a few times,” Ferrell said on the Lefkoe Show, a Bleacher Report podcast. “It pissed me off pretty much. Every second after that game was over, a couple times I was just mad.

“ … (Mahomes is) a different type of player, too. He’s one of those guys. He just backpedals, he’ll throw the ball from weird angles, it’s not like sacking a regular quarterback. Yeah, I’m definitely looking forward to sacking him. It needs to happen. It’s definitely going to happen.

“ … Just know I’m coming, no doubt.”

Ferrell did everything except get that sack, but he will have more chances when the Chiefs come to Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas to play the Raiders again on Nov. 22.

Even though he had never had more than three pressures in a game, Ferrell has played such a solid all-around game this season that PFF has him rated as the ninth-highest edge defender in the league.

On one of Ferrell’s pressures in the fourth quarter on Sunday, he forced Mahomes to throw the ball early and safety Jeff Heath intercepted the throw downfield intended for tight end Travis Kelce.

Heath’s 47-yard interception return to the two-yard-line setup Josh Jacobs’ touchdown run on the next play, which proved to be the deciding score in a 40-32 victory.

Through five games, Ferrell has been credited with 10 tackles, including seven solo, and two passes defended, after having 34 tackles, including 20 solo, and five passes defended in 15 games last season.

Ferrell had three tackles against the Chiefs, but his biggest stop this season came when he moved inside and stonewalled fullback Alex Armah of the Carolina Panthers on fourth down and short near midfield with 1:11 left in the opener.

That allowed the Raiders to hold on for a 34-30 victory at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.

So that’s two plays this season by Ferrell that virtually wrapped up Raiders victories.

Still, much of the attention on the Raiders defense in the last two seasons has gone to fellow defensive end Maxx Crosby, and not only because he is more flamboyant and outspoken than Ferrell.

Crosby was selected in the fourth-round (No. 106 overall) of the same 2019 NFL Draft out of Eastern Michigan and last year as a rookie led the Raiders with 10 sacks while making 43 tackles, including 32 solo, and four pass breakups.

After adding his fourth sack this season against Mahomes, Crosby spoke about the all-around defensive effort.

“It’s every one of us out there,” the 6-5, 255-pound Crosby said. “As a defense, we know that Mahomes loves to extend plays, and we had to give everything we had. I know personally, I’ve never been that tired.

“We stayed together, we played with confidence and we just cut it loose from start to finish.”

Including both of the Silver and Black’s bookends.

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