Raiders' Clelin Ferrell remaining confident through NFL growing pains


ALAMEDA -- Clelin Ferrell was as productive as they come in college, terrorizing opposing quarterbacks as a lynchpin of a fearsome Clemson defense. 

Jon Gruden and the Raiders liked what they saw in on-field production, measurables, character and as a locker room presence, so they selected Ferrell with the No. 4 overall pick in the NFL draft, hoping he would help turn around a pass rush that couldn't bother anyone a season ago. 

Through five games in his rookie season, Ferrell has yet to pop, notching only 11 total quarterback pressures in 139 tries, good for a win rate of 4.3 percent, per Pro Football Focus. That ranks 92nd in the NFL.

Rookies normally take time to develop, rarely making an immediate impact like the one the 49ers are seeing out of No. 2 overall pick Nick Bosa. 

A lot has been asked of Ferrell. Gruden and defensive coordinator Paul Guenther have moved him around, playing him outside and inside in an effort to keep one of their most talented players on the field as much as possible. 

Gruden has equated Ferrell's pressure numbers to playing more inside, especially when the Raiders are in their nickel package. Ferrell has played inside yes, but the numbers suggest he's actually seen more snaps outside this season. In Week 7 against the Packers, 21 of Ferrell's 35 defensive snaps came on the left edge, per Pro Football Focus. In Week 4, 58 of his 65 snaps came on the edge. 

Ferrell's production hasn't lived up to the reputation he built at Clemson or the lofty standards he has set for himself. He knows the NFL is a process and wants to be successful right away. Trusting the process but expecting greatness is a fine line, but Ferrell is confident and determined to live up to the expectations. 

"I feel like any player knows that to become a great player, you have to become it first, you know what I mean?" Ferrell told NBC Sports Bay Area. "You can't just be it. Some guys, they hit bigger jumps than others at times, but it's just going to take time. Trust me, ain't nobody have more confidence in myself than I do."

Ferrell gained a reputation as a tireless worker at Clemson. One of coach Dabo Swinney's favorite players, Ferrell loves being challenged and became one of the poster players for the dominance in Death Valley. 

He knows the production at the NFL level will come. It'll take work, something he'll no doubt put in. That starts with becoming a master of Guenther's defensive scheme and getting to know his opponents inside and out. 

"Everything is a bit of a learning curve, you know what I mean?" Ferrell said. "I've put a lot of responsibility on myself and I've kind of taken a lot of responsibility to be that Swiss Army knife. You know, a guy that can play up and down the line of scrimmage. So, you know, there's been some tough things, some good things, some good plays, some bad plays. But you keep aggressive, that's what it's about.

"The biggest thing is just honing in on learning the defense," Ferrell continued. "It's really just expanding my football IQ. I feel like that's the biggest thing for new players in this league. I was used to college and now I'm getting used to, 'OK, what carries over from game to game in the NFL?' And I feel like once I start playing against teams, you know, more than once, like our divisional games, I feel like it'll really go from there."

Ferrell has been asked to be a lot for this Raiders team. He's played up and down the line, hoping to provide the pass rush the Silver and Black desperately crave. At Clemson, he was cemented on the outside, with fearsome rushers like Dexter Lawrence and Christian Wilkins wreaking havoc up the middle. Moving all around the line is a new experience, a versatile role he's enjoying and working to perfect. 

"I see it as fun," Ferrell said of being asked to wear many hats on the D-line. "It's something that I always saw for myself as far as like my potential as far as my football career. Yeah, it's a learning curve -- as far as, you might not have the most success at it at first but you just got to stick at it and not grow impatient. You want success as soon as you can but you can't grow impatient man, that's how I am. I'm just steady, really trying to learn everything so I'm good."

[RELATED: Could Raiders get pass-rush help from Jordan, Beasley?]

Ferrell missed the Raiders' Week 5 game while in concussion protocol. He's back working and focused on improving day in and day out. He's got all the tools and has the belief of a coaching staff and organization that views him as one of the building blocks for the next great era of Raiders football. 

Greatness came for Ferrell at Clemson, the product of immense talent, tireless work ethic, unflappable self-belief and a desire to do whatever it takes to make himself and his team great. 

"That guy right there, he ain’t going to change his stripes. That's who you build a program with," Swinney told NBC Sports Bay Area in August about Ferrell. 

Greatness can come for Ferrell in silver and black, too. He knows what it will take. 

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