“We wish we could have taken Josh and Clelin. It was a tough decision and I know Jacksonville’s got a good young player there that’s a great kid too.” Those are words from Raiders head coach Jon Gruden during a conference call Wednesday with Jaguars local media.
Prior to the start of this season, draft pundits and sports media across the county believed that the Raiders were going to select Wildcats defensive end Josh Allen with the fourth overall draft pick. Instead, Oakland opted to go in a different direction with Clelin Ferrell, a decision that nobody envisioned. The team with the least amount of sacks in the NFL in 2018, chose not to pick a collegiate player that had 31.5 sacks while at the University of Kentucky in his four year career. Moreover, he earned Defensive Player of the Year in the Southeastern Athletic Conference, which has been earned by the likes of Patrick Willis, Eric Berry, Patrick Peterson and C.J. Mosley. Not bad company for the first Wildcats defender to earn the honors. So why did the Raiders decide against selecting such a decorated pass rusher?
Gruden On Allen/Ferrell Decision
Gruden gave clarity about the Josh Allen/Clelin Ferrell decision on Wednesday in a conference call with Jaguars media.
“He really was (close). He was a big part of our thought process there,” Gruden said.
“We are a 4-3 defensive team and we really had no pure defensive ends on our team. And we wanted to take Josh because of his obvious pass rushing ability, but we needed a six-technique — a guy that could play on first down. Not that Josh can’t, but we needed what we felt was a pure 4-3 defensive end.”
Coach Gruden makes a valid point. This team lacked a pure 4-3 defensive end. At the same time, Oakland’s defense has been devoid of playmakers that can get to the quarterback as well. It raises the question for a unit that had the least amount of sacks and pressures in 2018: Should the Raiders bypass players that can pressure opposing quarterbacks regardless of position? It was fair to wonder whether Josh Allen had the ability to play with his hand in the dirt as in College, he rarely played with his hand in the dirt at the line of scrimmage as he played standing up at outside linebacker in the 3-4 scheme. Yet again, the scheme outgains talent debate comes into play.
But Can He Play?
The controversy is over: Allen has made a smooth transition from college to the NFL and shows up to play every week. Oh, and he can play with his hand in the dirty too in case you were wondering.
Fantastic sack by #Jaguars Josh Allen.
— Locked on Jaguars (@LockedOnJaguars) October 27, 2019
He has also shown determination and grit in his ability to be effective in the run game as well.
I really like what I've seen from Jaguars rookie DE Josh Allen in the first quarter of the season. Right away his twitch & burst jumps out. But his play strength and ability to fight through contact has surprised me.
Week 4 examples pic.twitter.com/eQNCXGMdIY
— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) October 3, 2019
Coming into this Sunday’s matchup with the Raiders, Josh Allen leads all NFL rookies with nine sacks on the season. A stat more imposing, he is eight overall with 46 QB pressures. Last but not least, he is ninth with 11 QB knockdowns. The man is becoming a master of how to get after signal-callers. Allen has been an astounding player in his rookie season and literally has a big test against the Raiders offensive line, which has allowed the fourth least sacks in the NFL at 21. The Jaguars are eigth in generating sacks with 39; they are also 6th at generating pressure on 26.5% of their defensive snaps. It will be a battle of wills in the trenches between Jacksonville and Oakland and extra motivation for this game will be on both sides. The last game in the Coliseum, and the fact that Josh Allen wanted to play for the Raiders.
Josh Allen: “The Oakland Raiders, I feel like I can help them out and they can help me out.” pic.twitter.com/WjnztWa3Jh
— Matt Schneidman (@mattschneidman) March 2, 2019
Hindsight is 20/20 according to Gruden. On Sunday, the Raiders are going to get a firsthand look at the player that didn’t fit their defensive scheme. If Oakland cannot schematically neutralize Allen, their failure may leave a bitter taste in the front office’s mouth of taking scheme fits over premier talent moving forward.