OAKLAND, Calif.—There has been a lot of external talk about the struggles of Raiders No. 4 overall pick Clelin Ferrell in the first half of his rookie season.
He elected not to respond to the naysayers after a breakout 21/2-sack effort in Thursday night’s 26-24 win over the Chargers at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
Ferrell took about five minutes at his locker, adjusting his clothes and hat with his back turned to a horde of reporters waiting to hear his comments after a dominant performance that saw him record the most sacks in a game by a Raider rookie since Anthony Smith in 1991.
When he finally turned around, he told reporters he would only answer one question.
He meant it.
“All that mattered was the win,” he said in response to a query about his performance. “We’re on to the next one. Appreciate y’all. This was for Raider nation. Happy about it. We’ve got a lot to improve on, but we’re on to the next one. I’ve got to go. My mama’s waiting on me.”
Ferrell hadn’t recorded a sack since opening night against the Broncos, but against the Chargers he fell just short of Greg Townsend’s franchise rookie record of three set in 1983.
His 2.5 sacks are second only to San Francisco’s Nick Bosa for most in one game by a rookie this year. Bosa had three Oct. 27 against Carolina.
Ferrell also joined Bosa as the only rookies with two-plus sacks and a pass defensed in a single game this season.
“Clelin needed that,” said fellow rookie defensive end Maxx Crosby, who had a tackle for a loss and a half-sack. “A lot of people said this and that, but it doesn’t matter. Clelin came out, balled out and did what he’s supposed to do. It was huge for us.”
Coach Jon Gruden has been lashing out at Ferrell’s critics for weeks. He has consistently pointed out Ferrell’s contributions in the running game and as a versatile piece on the defensive line who has filled in on the interior when the team was down several bodies.
Still, Ferrell entered Thursday with a dismal 48.7 grade from Pro Football Focus, which placed 105th among NFL defensive ends.
“Sack totals are driving me nuts,” Gruden said after the game. “He does a lot more than just rush the passer. He made some great plays against the run. It was a signature game for him, obviously, but it’s great for him to get some sacks. Maybe some of the people who are counting sacks out there will acknowledge this.”
Ferrell’s teammates have certainly taken notice. Safety Erik Harris, who had two interceptions Thursday and came close to several others, credited Ferrell and the rest of the defensive line for the consistent pressure that led to Philip Rivers’ three interceptions.
Harris said he had a talk with Ferrell on the road in Houston several weeks ago about the kind of expectations that had been placed on him due to where the Raiders selected him in the draft.
“I’m so proud of him,” Harris said. “I wasn’t drafted, so I can’t imagine the kind of pressure one would have to perform under those expectations. I’m just really happy for him, honestly. I’m happy that he’s playing free and just doing his thing and getting after it.”
Harris said the talent in Ferrell is obvious. “He’s young and he’s stepping up and showing why he was No. 4 overall.”
The Raiders hope it’s just the beginning.