During the 2019 NFL Draft, the Oakland Raiders were regarded as heavy favorites to land current Jaguars defensive end Josh Allen with the fourth overall pick. Instead, the Raiders opted to take big defensive end Clelin Ferrell out of Clemson.
Raiders head coach Jon Gruden spoke highly of the former Kentucky defensive end on a conference call on Wednesday with the local Jaguars media, praising the 22-year-old for his pass-rushing ability, along with the Jaguars in how they use the former Wildcat.
Allen has played across the line of scrimmage this season for the Jaguars, oftentimes playing on both run and passing down, however, he has more frequently been used as a pass rusher, leading all rookies in sacks with nine on the season.
Gruden says Allen was a “big part” of the Raiders’ thought process during the draft, however, the team runs a 4-3 defensive front and had no big defensive end currently on the roster. “We wanted to take Josh [Allen] because of his obvious pass-rushing ability, but we needed a six technique. A guy that can play on first down,” Gruden said on Wednesday.
Allen primarily lined up in Kentucky’s 3-4 defensive front as an outside linebacker, very seldom putting his hand in the dirt to rush the passer. However, in Jacksonville, the defensive rookie of the year candidate has played with his hand in the dirt plenty in his time in Jacksonville listed at 262 pounds.
With his versatility, Allen has lined up in a variety of places for the Jaguars including, most recently, in a 4B role — a position defensive end Calais Campbell typically plays.
Coming out of Clemson, Ferrell was more of a prototypical defensive end, currently listed at 265 pounds. On the season, Ferrell has accounted for 31 tackles (19 solo), four tackles-for-loss, and 3.5 sacks on the year.
“We wish we could have taken Josh and Clelin,” Gruden said with a laugh. “It was a tough decision and I know Jacksonville’s got a good young player there that’s a great kid too.”
The Jaguars have one of the more impressive defensive end combinations in NFL with Allen, Yannick Ngakoue and Campbell. Gruden has had high praise for all three players and understands it will be a challenge on Sunday.
“You gotta really respect 91 (Yannick Ngakoue), his effort coming off the edge, he’s relentless,” said Gruden of the Pro Bowl defensive end. “And if you don’t like Calais Campbell you got a screw loose, so we got a lot of respect for their front, and we’re gonna have our hands full.”
Unsure if the Raiders will have stud offensive tackle Trent Brown, who did not participate in practice on Wednesday with a pectoral injury, back in the fold this week, Gruden says the team will need to be very careful with how they approach the Jaguars trio of talented linemen.