Five Raiders to watch in Week 16: Cleiln Ferrell's chance vs. Chargers

Scott Bair

LOS ANGELES -- The Raiders (6-8) don't have much left to play for. This season went too far south during a four-game losing streak that dropped them from 6-4 to below .500, with a 180-degree turn required to re-establish that plateau.

They need 10 games to go right to make the playoffs, including a victory on Sunday against the AFC West rival Los Angeles Chargers.

That won't be easy. The Raiders are underdogs for Sunday's contest at Dignity Health Sports Park, which will, in essence, be a home game dominated by fans in silver and black.

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Those loyalists will be cheering a team that has completely run out of gas. Fumes are all that's left for the squad that showed midseason promise and couldn't sustain that level of play down the stretch.

Now, the Raiders are in evaluation mode, which will influence the five players to watch in this rivalry game. Fans should keep a close eye on young players or those in a contract year who the Raiders must decide whether to pay next season.

That's why the first person on this list is the first player the Silver and Black drafted in 2019.

DE Clelin Ferrell

The No. 4 overall pick hasn't sacked a quarterback since a Week 10 victory over these Bolts. His opportunities to rush the passer have also decreased as coaches try to hone once-varied responsibilities down to a role in the base defense. Ferrell has been an awesome run defender recently, but players drafted as high as he was are expected to do more. Ferrell should be the complete package.

The rookie tallied two sacks against some backup Chargers offensive lineman and might have to deal with Russell Okung this time around. Okung's status is uncertain due to injury, but Ferrell should be able to handle him and anyone thrown before him in order to bring heat on statuesque Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers.

Ferrell is a good player, though some wonder if greatness is within his ceiling. Coaches involved in his selection, however, consider his potential vast.

"It's his first year in the league," Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said earlier this week. "You know obviously you like to see the rush and both in the run. He's just not a pass-rush specialist guy. That's not why we brought him in. He's an every-down end and he's gotten better every week for us."

DB Daryl Worley

Raiders coaches have talked a ton about moving Worley to safety. He hasn't played many snaps there outside of a Week 2 experiment covering Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. That will increase Sunday, where the Raiders could get an extended look at the impending free agent at a new position against the Chargers.

The move was discussed extensively last week, despite Worley being unavailable with a neck injury. The move should get made on Sunday, with him taken off Friday's injury report.

"He plays all the different spots -- nickel, corner and safety --  for us," Guenther said. "Just moving him around, being able to matchup on some guys is always a good thing for him. He's been able to handle all of it, so he'll continue in those roles."

The Raiders will have options at safety next year, with Johnathan Abram a lock and Erik Harris still around. Karl Joseph and Worley are options to return in free agency, Lamarcus Joyner could be moved back from the slot cornerback spot or the Raiders simply could acquire a new one this offseason. Worley's play will have something to do with all of that.

WR Hunter Renfrow

The Raiders' most reliable receiver is back after sitting three games with a broken rib and a punctured lung. The Silver and Black missed the fifth-round NFL draft pick, who had built strong chemistry with quarterback Derek Carr. That was especially true on third down, where Renfrow was adept at creating the space required to move the sticks.

Renfrow didn't have to return at this late point in the season, but he wanted to come back nonetheless. The Clemson product is a gamer, a tough competitor dying to continue building on a strong rookie year.

The Raiders offense often stalled at crucial points without him. It will be interesting to see how the unit functions with him back in the lineup. Carr, for one, will welcome him back with open arms.

"We were on the same page obviously before he got injured," Carr said this week. "We had a really nice thing going, so there's nothing like live reps though. There is nothing like actually playing games and getting that feel back, so we'll have to do that. But getting a guy like that back, he's a guy that's been awesome for us. Not just on intermediate routes, but deeper routes, different kinds of things against some good players."

LB Will Compton

The veteran interior linebacker hasn't been a Raider for long. He was signed off the street on Oct. 30, more committed to his podcast and post-NFL life than a career extension. Now, he's making the most of this latest chance and proving he's still capable of playing some good football.

He has been promoted to a full-time role calling signals in this complex defense, with the agility and savvy to cover well on passing downs and thump with the big boys on run defense. He could be a 2020 option as well if he finishes the season strong. It's possible the Raiders bring Vontaze Burfict back, but they'll need a reliable veteran backup or a draft pick to hedge against that decision.

Compton's fully in the mix to play a significant role next season if he continues playing well in this one.

[RELATED: Jordan values those who cheer name, not just Raiders number]

K Daniel Carlson

The Raiders kicker is in a rut, having missed seven kicks in seven games. It's eight if you count those nullified by penalty.

That's a bad run for someone who set the franchise record for field-goal percentage in 2018. He's struggling but is fully committed to getting right again with the coaching staff's full support. Gruden gave him a vote of confidence Monday, saying the Raiders will let Carlson kick himself out of this current skid. A perfect day against the Chargers, with a long field goal in the mix, would go a long way in ending this season on a high note.

If he continues to struggle, expect some legitimate competition coming in this offseason.

Five Raiders to watch in Week 16: Cleiln Ferrell's chance vs. Chargers originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

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