Rookie DE Clelin Ferell played his butt off this past Sunday. Ferrell seemed like one of the few Raiders determined to give the fans a proper send-off, and he played like a man possessed. According to Pro Football Focus, the Raiders first round pick hasn’t played too shabby in the past few weeks. Whether or not you put any faith in the rating service, you can’t deny he had one of his best games against the Jaguars.
Clelin Ferrell's ELITE 90.8 overall grade yesterday led all #Raiders over his 23 snaps!— PFF OAK Raiders (@PFF_Raiders) December 16, 2019
The last 4 weeks have been his 4 highest graded games
Since Week 12, his 84.8 overall grade is 5th among all EDGE defenders #RaiderNation pic.twitter.com/7A3Bg3PvHX
Was Ferrell’s game “Elite” like PFF says? Let’s take a look and decide for ourselves:
Setting the edge
When the Raiders drafted Ferrell with the 4th overall pick, many pundits and fans alike questioned the decision, often naming more lithe pass rushers like Josh Allen or Brian Burns as favorable selections. In Paul Guenther’s scheme, however, he wants his defensive ends who stop the run first and foremost. This clip above shows what Ferrell is better at doing than those other pass rushers named: setting the edge. Check out how the left tackle’s head gets knocked back when Ferrell locks his arms out. Then, the rookie DE disengages and gets in on the tackle.
The play above didn’t show up in the box score for Ferrell, but it highlights how important team defense is. If a player doesn’t set the edge here, maybe Fournette hits a hole and gains a few yards down the field. Instead, Ferrell knocks the TE back and gets his head outside as the RB looks to cut up field. Seeing the rookie DE with an arm and leg free in the D-gap forces Fournette to cut back into the clutches of Marquel Lee.
Making plays in pursuit
The ball didn’t need to go in Ferrell’s direction for him to have an impact in this game. He also made plays when the run was aimed towards the opposite side. This is great recognition from Ferrell in the clip above. He sees the split zone action from the wing nearest his side, gets into the blockers hip and follows it to the play. The LT attempts to execute a “hinge” block on the backside of this counter play, but can’t get to Ferrell in time.
This is pretty funny because it is almost the same exact play, except they told the wing to block Ferrell. It’s one of those plays that sounds good in theory, but is actually a bad practice. Maybe don’t disrespect Ferrell by putting a WR on him. Anyways, he throws this poor guy right into the running lane, forcing Fournette to improvise and causing him to lose a couple yards as a result.
Rushing the passer
This is the moment in the article when all of us Raider fans come collectively back down to earth. For as impactful Ferrell is against the run, he’s still a work in progress rushing the passer. I included this rep even though it wasn’t a pressure. It is cool to see a rookie dump a 6-foot-6, 325 pound Cam Robinson on his backside when working on his bull rush.
Most of Ferrell’s few rush attempts looked like this, however. On a running down, executing a run-first technique, and eventually getting zero pressure on the QB. I could critique his pass rush technique here, but when he’s lined up in the B-Gap and being told to key the guard, I understand that the pass rush is secondary to his defensive look. Ferrell has come off the field often on 3rd downs since the Chargers game when he recorded 2.5 sacks. Hopefully the fans get to see him have another few reps rushing the passer this season.
While Ferrell had a great game, it wasn’t quite elite. He has a long way to go as a pass rusher before we can say that about him. That said, in a microcosm, Ferrell’s run defense is stellar and something the rookie can hang his hat on.
For some reason, Dion Jordan came in for Ferrell on a few early downs in the second half. The results weren’t great, and Jordan gave up the edge on two chunk running plays that helped the Jaguars stay on the field during their longer drives; A decision by the coaching staff that deserves to be second guessed after the final result.