Raiders

Clelin Ferrell showing he's exactly who Raiders thought he was early on

Clelin Ferrell showing he's exactly who Raiders thought he was early on

NAPA -- A lot of things come with being a high NFL draft pick. 

There is pressure, expectations and responsibility. 

When you're a top-five draft pick, all of those things are multiplied. 

That's the world Raiders rookie defensive end Clelin Ferrell currently is occupying. Or, rather, should be occupying. 

Through the first week of Raiders training camp, much has been made of Ferrell, and fellow rookies Johnathan Abram, Trayvon Mullen and Josh Jacobs, and how they conduct themselves not like, well, rookies. 

“I would say that Mike Mayock and Jon (Gruden), they’ve done a great job of drafting because these rookies are actually mature," linebacker Brandon Marshall said. "I've been around a lot of first-round picks, a lot of rookies and they are not as mature, they don’t work as hard, study as hard and they don’t have that same demeanor and mindset as these rookies, so I look at it where I think they can have big years, great years." 

So, why has Ferrell come in with a different mentality than most rookies? To the Clemson product, the answer is simple: The Raiders didn't call his name so he could have his hand held on the bench. 

"They didn’t bring us in here to be no rookie," Ferrell said. "And I don’t mean it from that sense, I just mean it from rookie can kind of get a connotation of — 'you can sit in the back.' You know, 'wait your turn. You don’t got to step out in front and really show that you want to play.' I consider myself just a first-year player. That’s all that it is.

"But as far as my mindset, I just want to come out and compete and earn everything that we got, and to do that in this defense you got to communicate, be physical, you got to be a guy that wants to set the tone, set the standard and be accountable and do your job." 

Ferrell's job will be to improve a Raiders pass rush that got to the quarterback just 13 times last season, leaving the secondary exposed for far too long. During his four-year career in Death Valley, Ferrell showed the explosiveness, strength and violence the Raiders want in a three-down defensive end. In his final three seasons at Clemson, Ferrell recorded 83 solo tackles, 50 1/2 tackles for loss and 27 sacks while helping anchor a defense that terrorized college football en route to two of the past three national titles. 

The selection of Ferrell at No. 4 overall certainly raised some eyebrows, but early returns are very positive about the young rusher and his ability to make an immediate impact for the Silver and Black. 

"He has good speed and he's strong," left tackle Kolton Miller said. "I think he can hold the edge. I think he'll be an immediate impact on our team."

Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther echoed those same sentiments. 

"Cle is an every-down end," Guenther said. "He’s exactly what we thought he was."

Early on in camp, Ferrell has shown his quickness and physical hands are just as effective as the pro-level as they were in college. In the Raiders' second non-padded practice, Ferrell beat Miller off the edge a few times, once notching a sack on quarterback Derek Carr, and once forcing him to take off and scramble. 

When the pads were put on, Miller appeared to have the upper hand on Ferrell, but it would be unreasonable to expect the "first-year player" to get the best out of a quality NFL tackle like Miller on every down, especially this early in camp. 

The Raiders' defense was downright abysmal a season ago, there's really no nice way to put it. The bulk of their struggles came from the hole left by the Khalil Mack trade. The defensive line lacked bodies and talent, and Guenther's unit was shredded as a result. 

[RELATED: Conley ready for 'responsibility' as Raiders' top corner]

Ferrell was brought in because he checked all the boxes that Gruden and Mayock believe are important to take the Raiders where they want to go. Ferrell has immense talent at a position of need. He comes from a winning culture. He's smart, he works hard and, most importantly, he has a belief in himself and a plan of attack that suggests he'll meet and possibly even exceed the expectation set for him. 

"I’ve always looked forward to being a complete player," Ferrell said. "I feel like I’m a guy, just from my mentality, I never want to come off the field. Because I want to be the guy that teammates say, ‘I want him on the field with me. I want to be in the trenches with that guy. I want that guy beside me when it’s fourth-and-1 on the goal line and we need to stop them from getting in the end zone.’ It’s just a mindset."

As Carr said early in camp, it's might be too early to know if Ferrell can play football, but the early returns have been impressive. Ferrell, to this point, is exactly who the Raiders thought he would be. 

Why reported Darius Slay trade from Lions makes sense for Raiders

Why reported Darius Slay trade from Lions makes sense for Raiders

The Raiders were on the verge of the playoffs this past season, but their passing game took yet another step back. Besides the emergence of rookie Trayvon Mullen, the Silver and Black have plenty of question marks at cornerback as they move to Las Vegas. 

There could be help available, though. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Monday that the Detroit Lions have talked to multiple teams regarding a trade for their Pro Bowl cornerback, Darius Slay. 

Between need, their slew of draft picks and available cap space, the Raiders could be a perfect fit for a trade with the Lions. Let's start with how Slay would fit in the defense. 

Mullen is expected to man one side of the defensive backfield at cornerback, while the other side is a bit of a mystery. Daryl Worley is a free agent this offseason, but Nevin Lawson, Nick Nelson, Keisean Nixon and Isaiah Johnson all are options. None are Slay, though. Not even close. 

Slay, 29, made his third straight Pro Bowl this last season. He also was a First Team All-Pro in 2017 when he led the NFL with eight interceptions and 26 passes defensed. Since 2014, Slay has recorded at least two interceptions and 13 passes defensed every season. 

Per advanced analytics site Pro Football Focus, Slay has been the fifth-best cornerback in the game since 2014. 

The Raiders also have the draft picks to get a deal done. They own two first-round picks -- Nos. 12 and 19 -- this April, as well as three in the third round, one in the fourth and one in the seventh. They have plenty of leverage to make a move. 

Las Vegas also lands right in the middle of current available salary-cap space going into next season. According to Spotrac, the Raiders have slightly over $51.5 million in salary-cap space. Slay, who has a $13.4 million cap hit in 2020, wants a new contract as he's set to hit free agency after this upcoming season. 

[RELATED: Ex-Raider Nnamdi Asomugha talks about his life on Broadway]

He likely would cost more than a few extra pennies, but it's clear Slay still can be a solid corner in a division where everyone is chasing QB Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. 

The Raiders could target a cornerback early in the draft. That's not out of the question at all. If the Lions are taking calls on Slay like Schefter reported, Raiders general manager Mike Mayock would be wise to listen. 

How ex-Raiders star Nnamdi Asomugha transitioned from NFL to Broadway

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How ex-Raiders star Nnamdi Asomugha transitioned from NFL to Broadway

Nnamdi Asomugha finds himself under a new set of bright lights. The former Raiders star cornerback, who ended his 11-year NFL career with the 49ers, now finds himself on Broadway

"I started the decade at the Pro Bowl, and I ended the decade on Broadway," Asomugha said in a recent interview with CBS' Dana Jacobson, which aired Friday. "I was like, 'This was really surreal.' This is not a dream that I ever had. And now, this is so clearly what I should be doing." 

Asomugha, now 38 years old, first dabbled in the entertainment business while still playing in the NFL. Towards the end of his career, he started working as a part-time NFL analyst when Jacobson worked at ESPN. He also did a commercial for Dick's Sporting Goods in 2009, and the director gave him words of encouragement regarding his acting skills. 

The three-time Pro Bowler said he started thinking about his post-playing career long before he was done playing football. He saw early on just how quickly your career can end. 

"You better start thinking about that long before you finish your career," Asomugha said. "I mean, I started noticing really my first year in the NFL that you can go down with an injury, your career can be over. You can get cut within moments. And then what are you gonna do?" 

The Cal product soon turned his focus to acting and producing. He said he "was a rookie again" and took acting classes.

Asomugha now has a long list of credits when looking at his IMDB page. The former football star was the executive producer for Netflix's "Beasts of No Nation" in 2015, and he starred in Amazon's "Crown Heights" in 2017.

But it was the Broadway stage where Asomugha found his true calling. He felt the same kind of rush he did on the football field when he made his Broadway debut in the award-winning "A Soldier's Play" earlier in February.

"They announce you, everyone's cheering," Asomugha recalled. "I kind of ran on to the stage and began our work. And I remember at that moment just being like, 'This is where I'm supposed to be.' ... That's football, isn't it? It's live. You don't get a second take, you better get it right.

"I developed that muscle so much, I'm at my best when I'm in the fire."

[RELATED: Why Raiders signing Brady could make sense for both sides]

Asomugha finished his football career after playing three games for the 49ers in 2013. He then retired as a Raider in December of that same year. And though he has found his new calling, he admits he misses the game that first brought him so much joy.

"That was a great time," Asomugha said. "Football is definitely my first love. Now finding this world in entertainment through acting and producing -- I didn't think I would love something as much as I did, but I'm so grateful now that I do."