When the Raiders used the 17th overall pick to select Alabama offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood in the 2021 NFL Draft, it was a decision that drew quite a bit of head-scratching.
However, the Raiders’ drafts in head coach Jon Gruden’s second regime have largely come under fire dating back to 2019 and that all starts with the Silver and Black reaching up for Clemson pass rusher Clelin Ferrell.
Unfairly shouldered with the pressure of replacing Khalil Mack after the Pro Bowler was traded to the Bears, Ferrell was taken fourth overall and hasn’t produced the numbers Raiders rooters had hoped to see. Nevertheless, Ferrell is adamant about being himself and that the statistics — or lack thereof — don’t tell the complete story of his impact.
“I think the biggest thing for me is, in the big scheme of things is just not growing weary,” Ferrell told reporters Wednesday. “I think the No. 1 thing is, I’ve got tape of me dominating games. I’ve got practice film of me killing it in practice. And for a lot of people, the results is going to come. I’ve got stats, but they’re not the dominant stats that everybody wants to see from myself because they know I can get them. It’s cool, but at the same time, I’ve got to stay patient, stay disciplined. At times it does get tough because you’re like, ‘Dag, man, I just want to have the numbers.'”
The numbers Ferrell does have — through 26 games (all starts) over two seasons — are 18 QB hits, 11 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks.
Stats do not always tell the whole tale and Ferrell’s 76.1 Pro Football Focus grade for 2020 was 16th among edge rushers. It was a huge improvement from his No. 76 spot and 62.3 grade in 2019.
Regardless, Ferrell and Co. have to improve some numbers. The 2020 Raiders defense was 29th in sacks, 25th in yards allowed and 30th in points allowed. That added up to an 8-8 campaign that was the franchise’s fourth season in a row failing to make the playoffs.
“All of us are tired of losing,” Ferrell said. “It’s not just the fact that we’re losing, it’s the fact we get right there to the playoffs and just can’t get over the hump.”
Now, Ferrell and the defense will look to regroup and improve under new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley.
Ferrell characterized the new defense as less thinking and more action — along with more responsibility.
“It puts a lot of responsibility on guys, but I feel like going into my third year, this team is mature enough to take on that role,” Ferrell said.
How well Ferrell has performed on the field is debatable, but the end results are not.
While a lack of sacks might not be all that important in the grand scheme of things, the defense as a whole has sputtered and the team’s ended its year in the regular season for far too long.
Ferrell is steadfast that the track he’s on is the right one, though, and believes the previously elusive results will be found in the future.
“I’m putting the work in every day. But I think it’s me staying disciplined, staying true to myself, not trying to be outside of myself. I know who I am as a player and the No. 1 thing is I know it’s going to pay off,” Ferrell said. “So, just staying disciplined and being myself every single day. Be the same person every single day regardless of what anybody got to say, regardless of the circumstances, just come in work hard and try to get this team to a Super Bowl.”
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