In their second seasons in the NFL, some players become stars. Yardbarker's Michael Nania and Sam Robinson offer candidates on defense who could make The Leap in Year 2.
Steelers LB Devin Bush
NANIA: The first off-ball linebacker selected in 2019 (10th overall) got off to a rough start as a rookie. Through three games, the Michigan product allowed 156 yards and eight first downs (two of them touchdowns) in coverage. He was Pro Football Focus' sixth-worst graded linebacker (39.9 overall grade) through Week 3.
But Bush progressed quickly after the rough start. He improved from allowing 52 yards per game in coverage over his first three appearances to just 27.5 over his final 13. Bush also cleaned up some tackling issues, missing only three over his final nine games (0.3 per game) after whiffing on seven over his first seven.
From Weeks 4-17, Bush was PFF's 13th-ranked linebacker out of 58 qualifiers (71 overall grade), ranking eighth at the position in run stops over that span (28) and allowing the 15th-lowest passer rating into his coverage (91.8).
Just 21 years and 52 days old when he made his NFL debut, Bush was the second-youngest linebacker to appear in a regular-season game in 2019. That he rapidly patched up his weaknesses and played at a well above average level are reasons to believe he could be one of the league's most active play-making linebackers in 2020.
Raiders DE Clelin Ferrell
Ferrell struggled mightily as a pass-rusher in his first season. He finished with a pressure rate of 8.1% (26 pressures on 321 rushes), which ranked 56th out of 58 qualifying edge rushers. Las Vegas needs much more in this phase from the player who was selected with the No. 4 overall pick in 2019.
The good news is that Ferrell was excellent against the run. From Weeks 12-17, he earned PFF's sixth-best run defense grade among qualifying edge defenders (82.9). If he can maintain that dominance, it should buy him patience from the coaching staff in the pass-rushing phase.
Ferrell showed flashes as a pass-rusher toward the end of 2019. In the final eight games, he had a PFF grade of 66.3, which ranked 29th out of 65 qualifying edge defenders.
In Maurice Hurst, Johnathan Hankins and the newly signed Maliek Collins, Las Vegas has a bevy of interior pass-rushing talent. As that group creates space for Ferrell outside, look for him to take a big step in Year 2.