Box scores and stat lines are often a convenient resource when trying to evaluate a player’s season. On the other hand, using that metric alone would be misleading. Stats alone say that Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Clelin Ferrell has regressed in his second season. However, when you take a further look into the film, it’s clear that while the numbers aren’t there, the Clemson standout is making an impact on the defensive line.
Flour, Money, Paper, and Hacky. What do those four words have in common? They’re all different types of sacks, many of which Ferrell could possibly own. Unfortunately, the defensive end has yet to own any quarterback sacks in the 2020 season.
In fact, none of Ferrell’s numbers are anything to write home about. In nine games, ‘Cle’ has only racked up 19 tackles, three for loss, two passes defensed, and zero forced fumbles. Nevertheless, just because the traditional numbers haven’t begun to stack up for the former fourth overall pick, it doesn’t mean he hasn’t had an impact on the defense.
What Do The Stats Say For The Raiders’ Sophomore?
When taking a look at some of the more in-depth statistics, it’s clear Ferrell has taken a big step forward. Last year, Ferrell failed to generate pressure on opposing quarterbacks. He only managed to record 15 pressures, two quarterback knockdowns, and eight hurries. By the same token, he did manage to bring down the quarterback four and half times in 15 games. At this point in the season in only nine games, Ferrell has already matched his pressures total, nine hurries, and six quarterback knockdowns.
What this immediately says is that Ferrell has been more successful at causing a disturbance in the backfield and making quarterbacks uncomfortable, something he struggled with tremendously in his rookie season. This also should be a ray of light for fans, coaches, and even Ferrell himself as that’s the first step, and most crucial step, to becoming a formidable pass rusher. What produces even more rays is when you take a look at Ferrell’s film.
What does the film actually reveal about Ferrell?
Not everything a player does will end up in a box score or on the back of a bubblegum card (do they still have those?). To fully appreciate a player’s season and to accurately judge his progression, take a look at some of the game film. This is because not everything can be seen live on game day.
This is why I don't fully understand the "QB Hurry"/Pressure stat. Clelin Ferrell does an excellent job to beat his man. The left guard does a good job to recover but Ferrell's presence flushes Bridgewater out of the pocket and make an awkward throw downfield pic.twitter.com/u1nKBXDHjf
This was back in Week 1 when the Raiders took on the Carolina Panthers. Ferrell is lined up over the left guard (right side of viewing of angle). He comes off the ball quickly and beats his man with a quick spin move. The left guard recovering and Teddy Bridgewater resetting his feet are what prevent a Ferrell sack. However, you can see how his quick presence in the backfield forced Bridgewater to move and make an uncomfortable throw that turned into an eventual incompletion. Ferrell’s best performance definitely came in week nine against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Clelin Ferrell didn't register a sack but continued to generate pressure. Shows a hard inside move with good hand usage, then a rip to work the corner, strength on a bull rush followed by another hard inside move.#RaiderNation 📽️: @Rholm22 pic.twitter.com/yGK3QOMmMc
— Ramble Digital Media™ (@RambleDMedia) November 14, 2020
This clip shows four different plays in which Ferrell not only narrowly brought down Justin Herbert but disrupted the pocket enough to force an incompletion via a rushed/bad throw. These four plays show how well-rounded his arsenal has truly become in his second season. He shows three different moves in which he uses to beat his man to generate the pressure in the backfield. Ferrell’s on-field awareness was one of the bright spots of his rookie season and it appears that hasn’t regressed.
This won't show up on the stat sheet but Ferrell, lined up at 4i tech, reads this screen and steps in front of the RB to force incompletion. Smart player.#Raiders #Raidernation pic.twitter.com/A88aQ09Rev
— Ryan Holmes (@Rholm22) October 12, 2020
Ferrell’s awareness is put on display on this play from week five versus the Kansas City Chiefs. Ferrell quickly realizes the offense is attempting to set up a backside screen to the running back. Ferell catches on steps into the passing lane causing Patrick Mahomes to abandon the play and throw it into the ground. These clips are a minor snippet of what Ferrell is doing right in his second campaign.
Some Final Words On Ferrell and The Raiders
While there are always things a player can improve upon, it’s a promising and encouraging sign to see Ferrell start to take these necessary steps. These steps are helping him become a formidable pass rusher for the Raiders. Also, one thing of note is how ’96’ is still being moved around the line. It’s not just left to right on the ends but inside also to take on the bigger guards as well.
That type of versatility is something Jon Gruden covets in his players. Clelin Ferrell will most likely be watched under a microscope his entire career. Being the guy drafted fourth overall following the trade of Khalil Mack was going to come with unwarranted pressure.
While Ferell might not be a Mack or Aaron Donald type player, that doesn’t mean he can’t be dangerous. If he and fellow classmate, Maxx Crosby, continue to progress at their current rates, the Raiders pass rush could be in good hands for years to come.
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*Top Photo: Cary Edmondson/USA Today Sports