Raiders top pick Clelin Ferrell drawing comparisons to star defensive ends

Raiders top pick Clelin Ferrell drawing comparisons to star defensive ends

The Raiders needed major defensive upgrades this offseason, but they needed more than talent. They also sought proper fits.

Paul Guenther’s being allowed to remodel this defense with players the defensive coordinator can see fitting into specific roles, both as starters and accent pieces.

The roles are easily identified even though the Raiders are far from a finished product. They’re another draft or two from that, assuming crops are fruitful, but look back at Cincinnati’s defense in its recent prime for prototypes of what Guenther’s searching for now.

No. 4 overall NFL draft pick Clelin Ferrell’s a player the Raiders believe can plug right into Guenther’s scheme and play extremely well in what we’ll call the Johnson/Dunlap role.

“Clelin is exactly what I’m looking for,” Guenther said last week. "That’s the kind of guys we had. The Michael Johnson’s and the Carlos Dunlap’s we had in Cincinnati that are every-down ends, that are big men that can both rush and play the run. So he’s exactly what we’re looking for.”

Ferrell should fit as a three-down end that can do most everything well, without a clear liability in his game that might push him into a narrow role. He plays the run and pass well, with a 6-foot-4, 265-pound frame durable enough to perform despite a heavy workload.

Johnson (6-6, 280) and Dunlap (6-6, 280) are even bigger than Ferrell, but long proved capable of slowing the run and rushing the passer. Johnson’s heyday has passed, but brought solid run play and double-digit sacks. Dunlap was more consistent getting to the quarterback, with 72.5 career sacks and seven seasons with at least 7.5.

Former Bengal and new Raiders middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict considers the Ferrell-Johnson/Dunlap comparisons valid and fair.

“Oh yeah,” Burfict said. “He’s a rookie but I swear he’s been here like five years. Doesn’t act like a rookie at all. He comes in ready to handle business, he’s even a leader in the huddle, even just cheering guys up, telling them, ‘Let’s finish the period off.’ And that’s a lot coming from a rookie because when I was a rookie I didn’t want to say much, I just wanted to go out there and do my job, so coming from him and he’s a defensive end and I give him a gap call or whatever type of call I give him, he understands it, so that’s huge.”

Ferrell has made a solid first impression on the Raiders staff as a hard worker picking up the scheme quickly. That must translate into production, and they would happily take a continuation of his Clemson stat line.

He had 27 sacks and 50.5 tackles for loss over his three seasons as a starter, with steady pressure off the edge.

Ferrell’s first-year expectations should be high, but temper them for this draft class’ other two defensive ends. Fourth-round pick Maxx Crosby is a top-notch athlete with quickness, tenacity and good push, but must prove himself after playing at small-school Eastern Michigan. Seventh-rounder Quinton Bell, a converted receiver from Prairie View A&M has flashed great speed and burst during OTAs open to the press, but is considered a true developmental prospect.

[RELATED: Paul Guenther sees Raiders' defense progress]

“Maxx looks like a Cadillac coming off the edge,” Guenther said. “He’s long, he’s loose, he’s quick off the ball. I think he’s going to make big jumps here in his first year.

“Bell is a guy who can run. He can chase quarterbacks down from the backside. You can use him as a spinner, rusher type guy. Again, he’s just developing as an end right now. Once we get into the pads we’ll have a good feel for what he can do.”

Why Bill Belichick will miss Oakland Coliseum after Raiders' finale

Why Bill Belichick will miss Oakland Coliseum after Raiders' finale

It’s no secret that New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick isn’t a man of many words.

When it comes to his press conferences, answers don’t tend to extend longer than a sentence or two.

But when the six-time Super Bowl champion coach was asked about the Raiders playing their final game at the Oakland Coliseum on Sunday, the famously tight-lipped coach opined on the soon-to-be-former home of the Silver and Black.

“Pretty intense fans. It’s like Halloween every Sunday there,” Belichick said to reporters Friday. “So, yeah. I mean, it’s a great environment.

“When I was with the Broncos, of course we played out there, so that was – especially at that time in ’78, if I get that right – I’m pretty sure the Broncos won the division that year. We were right there with the Raiders. It was the Raiders-Broncos. It was a very intense rivalry, so there was a lot of – there was the game, and then there was all the other aspects of the game.

“But, yeah, the Oakland crowd was a lot more intense than the L.A. crowd, and we’ll miss it. We’ll miss it.”

One thing the legendary coach won’t miss is the iconic Black Hole.

[RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Davis discusses end of Raiders' Oakland era]

“I think we kind of warmed up down there, so it’s not really where you want to be as a visiting coach,” Belichick said. “Tell the players not to stand too close to them in case they throw something and miss.”

The Raiders will host the Jacksonville Jaguars in their finale in front of the Oakland crowd on Sunday, as the team will officially move its operations to Las Vegas before the 2020 season.

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Five Raiders to watch in Week 15: Derek Carr must raise game vs. Jaguars

Five Raiders to watch in Week 15: Derek Carr must raise game vs. Jaguars

OAKLAND -- The Raiders will play their last game at Oakland Coliseum on Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars. It will be an emotional day for everyone involved.

That includes Jon Gruden, as attached to this East Bay fan base as anyone. The Raiders coach has shut off his emotions all week, driving focus into preparation for this game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. That’s the last Oakland moment he can control, and Gruden plans to take advantage.

Gruden desperately wants this win, and a victory might finally provide the opportunity to be emotional about the team’s scheduled move to Las Vegas.

“I wish I had time to stand up here and thank all the fans," Gruden said earlier this week. "I wish I had more time to really sit down and make that the big story here, and thank the fans for their support over the years, and what this franchise has accomplished, and what it means and what Oakland means to the Raiders. So, I’d like to thank everyone that welcomed us back when we came back and I know that they are going to stay with us when we go, but I appreciate all the fans and their loyalty and their support. We’ll try to give you one hell of a show.”

In order to put on a showstopper, the Raiders will need good performances from these five guys.

QB Derek Carr

I generally try to leave the franchise quarterback off these lists, but we’ll make an exception for the last Raiders game in Oakland. He got booed off the field after last week’s first half and again at the end, but this fan base still has a great affinity for the signal-caller who started virtually every game since 2014.

Carr owes them his best on Sunday, and odds are great he’ll put on a show for the faithful. He must improve upon recent performances to execute his plan. Carr will need help from a so-so receiver corps and an offensive line -- Trent Brown’s questionable with a pectoral strain -- that haven’t been at full strength all season.

Emotional Derek Carr is generally the best Derek Carr -- the season opener is a great example -- so we should anticipate him being on top of his game. The Jaguars have struggled mightily this season. but they’re sure to put up a fight during the final game in Oakland.

Carr is capable of putting a team on his shoulders, and he might have to with the Raiders defense playing as it is.

RB Josh Jacobs

The Raiders don’t have much to play for. Their playoff hopes are essentially dead, with the path to the postseason now complicated calculus when it was simple math not long ago. Jacobs is this team’s offensive engine, the player who matters most in what the Raiders do moving the football.

They know that. They believe his fractured shoulder can’t get worse and are hoping to trot him out there Sunday to help win the last game in Oakland. Jacobs' play exponentially increases their chances to win, and Jacobs knows that. He desperately wants to win this game.

The rookie is expected to be active, though it’s unclear exactly how much he will play. A 20-plus carry dose should do the Jaguars in. If he can provide that, the Raiders are in great shape if the defense holds up even a little bit. If not, Sunday could well be a struggle.

CB Isaiah Johnson

There’s no telling how much the fourth-round draft pick will play Sunday. Heck, he might not play at all.

Johnson hasn’t done much since returning off injured reserve, at times a healthy scratch since being activated around midseason. He has sat behind other guys during a playoff push and that made sense, but now it doesn’t. The Raiders are essentially out of the postseason running, with cornerback Daryl Worley either out with a neck injury or moving to strong safety in the base package.

That provides an opportunity to see what Johnson’s got. He won’t be his absolute best, not after missing most of training camp and half the regular season with a facial fracture suffered in the first regular-season game. Rookies can’t make up for that lost time until the following offseason, and Johnson clearly would’ve played earlier had he not been behind.

But it’s time to throw him out there as a test, to see what you’ve got in a talented young player. If he gives up a massive play, so what? The guy has to learn on the job. That’s how Trayvon Mullen has done it, and the Clemson product has thrived despite making some rookie mistakes. It’s time to let Johnson do the same.

DE Maxx Crosby

A devout Raiders follower made a flag to hang over the Oakland Coliseum railing -- enjoy that while you can Raider Nation, the tradition isn’t following you to Las Vegas -- to honor the departing club. He featured a skull and swords as crossbones, with a name filling out the remaining fabric. It said Mad Maxx.

That honors the rookie pass rusher who has already adhered himself to the fan base with one sack and pressure after another. He has proven a better run defender than people have expected. The Silver and Black need him to step up Sunday and generate heat largely missing from recent games.

Crosby currently has 7.5 sacks and would certainly like to reach 10 in his rookie year, needing at least a sack on Sunday to make that happen and give him a chance to compete for the Defensive Rookie of the Year award.

WR Tyrell Williams

The veteran receiver just isn’t right. Coaches volunteered that Williams' plantar fasciitis has plagued him all season despite it keeping him out just two games in the early going.

Williams simply hasn’t produced at a No. 1 receiver level, which has hurt the offense as a whole. Drops have been a real issue, and his lack of consistent separation can be attributed to his ailing foot.

He is not even on the injury report and is expected to play, and Williams has to produce if that’s the case. He remains the team’s best receiver and has to act like in the final game played in the spot where his grandparents live, in the town where he spent so much time as a kid.