In 2022, the new-look Las Vegas Raiders‘ front office looked to add youth they believed in to long-standing positions of need. This included two consecutive late-round picks at defensive tackle: Matthew Butler and Neil Farrell Jr. The duo, selected by general manager Dave Ziegler, brings a bit of “Yin and Yang” to the Silver and Black.
Butler was regarded for his ability to push the pocket and get after the quarterback while at Tennessee. Farrell was a touted run stopper with lingering pocket-collapsing traits during his tenure at LSU. The Raiders didn’t put all their eggs in the rookie basket, however. Their first major acquisitions in the 2022 offseason was former Chicago Bear Bilal Nichols. The first move Ziegler made as Las Vegas’ general manager was signing Andrew Billings to a future-reserve contract.
It was clear the Raiders didn’t plan to push their young lions into the fire too quickly, but injuries forced Butler and Farrell into some major snaps.
Matthew Butler and Neil Farrell performed to their draft position as rookies
Farrell would appear in nine contests last season, while Butler would see action in six games. Farrell would be the more productive of the two, finishing with 12 total tackles, two QB hits, and one tackle for loss. The former Tiger did what was asked of him in his short stints on the field. He clogged the running lanes and collapsed the pocket when possible.
Butler had a tougher time during his appearances. Pro Football Reference credits the former Volunteer with just five total tackles and zero QB hits.
No one expected either of these young men to set the world on fire during their rookie seasons. While they each have undeniable traits that are waiting to be tapped into, they were day three selections for a reason. The Raiders attempted to give the pair space to grow in the wings. Still, as we saw, the ‘next man up’ mentality sped up that timeline.
Butler could be feeling the pressure to produce in 2023 for the Raiders
Rather than begin a full-on youth movement at the defensive tackle position in 2023, general manager Dave Ziegler brought back pass rush specialist Jerry Tillery to pair inside with incumbent Bilal Nichols. John Jenkins, who saw his 2022 season end prematurely due to injury, joined the team as well. The front office also added veteran Adam Butler, and spent a third-round selection on Alabama product Byron Young. One could argue Farrell is still the best in-house option against the run. That’s in spite of spending a seventh-round pick on Nesta Jade Silvera.
On the other hand, Butler should feel a bit of a crunch when he looks around the locker room.
Butler’s specialty is supposed to be getting after the QB. However, as the depth chart currently sits, he may be the fourth-best option to do so at the position. This doesn’t even include the chance that Chandler Jones gets kicked inside on certain looks. No harsh decisions will be made on the future of either of these two any time soon. The Raiders are clearly rebuilding, whether they want the fanbase to believe it or not. This should afford both Matthew Butler and Neil Farrell plenty of opportunities to become every-down options for the Silver and Black.
*Top Photo: Official Raiders YouTube Channel
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