Raiders: 3 players who can replace edge rusher Kyler Fackrell
The Las Vegas Raiders fielded an All-Pro and Pro Bowl alternate edge rushing duo in 2021. Despite the big success from the pair, the team decided to push for an upgrade, acquiring ’19 Defensive Player of the Year runner up Chandler Jones.
Now with two All-Pros going after opposing quarterbacks, the edge rushing unit in Las Vegas appears to be all sunshine and rainbows – Or was, prior to a devastating injury to Kyler Fackrell, the team’s third edge rusher.
Fackrell was poised to share snaps with both Jones and Crosby, being the first man to rotate in at both edge positions. On Friday, the Raiders announced Fackrell was being placed on the Injured Reserves list, ending his season in Las Vegas.
Suddenly finding themselves down their first rotational edge rusher, the Raiders have to find a new option for the job. Luckily for Las Vegas, a few viable options exist on the roster. Let’s discuss 3 of them.
3 Players Who Can Replace Las Vegas’ Edge Rusher Kyler Fackrell
3. Clelin Ferrell
Many of Raider Nation has yet to recover from watching Las Vegas select Ferrell fourth-overall in the 2019 NFL Draft. While the early portion of his career has left a lot to be desired, Ferrell may have a legitimate chance to earn his respect in Fackrell’s absence.
Since the beginning of the offseason, Ferrell has worked on transitioning to outside linebacker. When referred to as a defensive end in an interview back in May, Ferrell replied, “Hey, I’m an outside linebacker now”.
Ferrell has spent the entirety of his time in the NFL on the defensive line, playing both end and defensive tackle. The Raider entering his fourth-year has totaled 8 sacks with 2 forced fumbles throughout his career, with 9 passes broken up.
After starting each contest he appeared in during ’19 and ’20, Ferrell took a backseat to Yannick Ngakoue and Maxx Crosby in 2021.
The Clemson alum earned a PFF grade of 44.4 in ’21; A career low mark. Ferrell hopes to get back on track in 2022.
2. Malcolm Koonce
Koonce made Raiders’ headlines on Thursday, when Las Vegas Review Journal’s Cassie Soto captured the 24-year-old getting chewed out by Josh McDaniels.
While Koonce appears to be on McDaniels’ bad side at the moment, make no mistake, the former Buffalo pass rusher is a legitimate threat to take Fackrell’s place as the Raiders’ third edge rusher. So much so, in fact, that Koonce was the immediate replacement for Fackrell on Thursday.
Once Fackrell got hurt, the second-year Raider stepped into his role.
Las Vegas selected Koonce 79th overall in the 2021 NFL Draft. In just 48 defensive snaps, the ’21 rookie logged 2 sacks. These 2 sacks came in back-to-back weeks, with the first in a week-13 matchup against the Washington Football Team, and second at Kansas City.
Rich Bisaccia, who took over as the Raiders’ interim coach in 2021, had great praise for the Raiders’ young pass rusher. When asked about Koonce, Bisaccia said he’s seen the Buffalo alum shine during practice, so the small glimpses of success aren’t surprising.
“[Koonce] is a serious minded young man.”
PFF gave Koonce a grade of 60.8 for his work during his rookie campaign.
1. Darien Butler
Butler’s proposition is a bit different, being the Arizona State linebacker isn’t a true edge rusher. Still, as an outside linebacker who’s shined in camp, it’s hard to ignore Butler’s fit in what’s ultimately a need for an outside linebacker.
The undrafted free agent has had himself a week, recording the first interception in this year’s training camp on Saturday. On Wednesday, Butler ran with the starting unit, and started off the day with a big hit on rookie running back Brittain Brown.
Butler has all of the tools Raider Nation loves in their linebackers. He’s an aggressive hitter, strong against the run, and great in coverage. Per Pro Football Focus, Butler has been a force of nature when asked to drop back into coverage.
Darien Butler: 87.7 coverage grade
1st among Pac-12 LBs in 2021 🥇 pic.twitter.com/mjl0UCFrKX
— PFF College (@PFF_College) February 10, 2022
The ASU alum ended his senior year leading the team in interceptions (3). Butler also broke up an additional 3 passes.
While it isn’t his bread and butter, Butler has also proved to be a threat when attacking the quarterback. Through his four-year tenure at Arizona State, the 22-year-old tallied 4 sacks, grabbing 2 his senior year.
Although he comes up short in a pure edge rushing comparison with both Koonce and Ferrell, Butler is by far the most well-rounded of the 3. What he lacks in his total pass rushing package, he makes up for in other areas. Based on this, the UDFA should be a legitimate threat to grab Fackrell’s outside linebacker spot.