Raiders Film Room: “Mad” Maxx Crosby Could Push for a Starting Role

EDGE rusher was easily the biggest hole in the Raiders roster heading into this offseason. Fourth-overall pick Clelin Ferrell is already etched in as a starting defensive end and Ferrell’s physical profile is a perfect fit for Defensive Coordinator Paul Guenther’s system. But determining who will be lining up opposite of Ferrell on opening day may take some time.

Second year EDGE Arden Key might be considered the favorite to land the role based on his year of experience in the system. Over the 16 games Key played last season he logged 30 total tackles, four tackles for loss, 11 hits on the quarterback, and a sack. He filled in admirably even though it was never the coaching staff’s intention to force him into such a significant role so early in his development. Key has the desired length at 6’5″ but comes in at a lean 240-pounds. The plan was most likely to use him as a situational pass rusher and that could now once again be a possibility.

General manager Mike Mayock selected EDGE Maxx Crosby in the 4th round (106th overall) and at 6’5″ and 255-pounds, he fits the mold of a Guenther defensive end much more than Key. Like mist rookies, Crosby will need to add strength, but he has shown the physical ability to contribute right away. He may even end up becoming the best option as the other full time starting EDGE.

Run Defense 

EDGE rushers make their money from dropping the quarterback so it’s not surprising that is the focus of most fans and media. The Raiders really struggled stopping the run last year giving up the 3rd most rushing yards while facing the 3rd most rushing attempts. It is hard to generate sacks if the defense doesn’t force the offense into many obvious passing situations and Crosby should help in that area.

 

Runs off the edge were a real Achilles heel for Guenther’s defense last season. Crosby shows great get-off from both a 3-point and 4-point stance combined with decent hand fighting ability. He also has a good feel for how offenses attack him.

On this play, he felt the “zone step” on the outside zone run and beat the offensive tackle to his spot. Once the tackle realized he could not get to Crosby, he made the mistake of stopping his feet and reaching out. Crosby was able to clear the tackles hands with a “swipe”, turn the corner, and bring down the ball carrier for one of his 41 career tackles for loss.

Taking on zone blocking is more about gap control than simply brute strength. College linemen are not generally refined physically, but their professional counterparts are, and it was promising to see Crosby have some success negotiating pulling blockers in open space.

 

Crosby found himself one on one with a pulling guard on this “Fake Jet Power Iso” from a pistol formation. Once again, he shows his get off and ability to read the block. At the last second he uses his quickness to sidestep contact and maintain his containment responsibility. As the running back attempts to cut inside, Maxx once again flashes his athleticism securing another one of the 162 tackles he had in his three seasons at Eastern Michigan. The only worry here stems from his reliance on his athleticism and reluctance to take the blocker head on. He will need to get more comfortable being able to take on, stack, and shed blocks in the NFL but Head Coach Jon Gruden has confidence he will be able to do so.

“He’s ‘Mad’ Maxx. He comes off the ball repeatedly with great effort,” Gruden said after the draft. “I like that relentless style that he plays with. He’s gotten bigger and stronger every year that he has played. Some of his second effort production is what stands out the most.”

Pass Rush 

At the end of the day, EDGE rushers are there to put the quarterback on the ground. The Raiders, as a team, were abysmal at doing so last season. They averaged less that one sack per game and finished the season with only 13 for the year. Rookie defensive tackle Maurice Hurst would end up being the team leader with only 4 total sacks. Crosby should improve those numbers having put up 20 sacks in his three seasons including 11 sacks during his 2017 campaign.

On this play, once again Crosby’s ability to read and react produce a negative play for the opposing offense. The offensive line attempts to sell the outside zone play action by taking legitimate zone steps. Maxx isn’t deceived and uses his outside leverage to his advantage. He shuffles his feet and invites the extra offensive lineman to come to him. As soon as the lineman gets in range, Crosby goes with a “speed / club” combination that gives him a free shot at the quarterback.

Until he bulks up that first step explosion is going to be his calling card. Time in the strength and conditioning program, as well as working with defensive line coach Brentson Buckner, should add some power moves to his repertoire.

Intangibles

As Gruden has pointed out already, Crosby goes all out on every play. He is one of those whistle-to-whistle types that coaches absouluty love. Fans have all witnessed players who had an elite skillset but lacked the work ethic required to become great. This young man does not have that issue and will endear himself to the Raiders’ coaching staff.

Crosby rushes on an apparent 2-man pressure that miraculously ends in a 12-yard sack after an extended scramble drill. He has work to do to reach his full physical potential, but a guy with this kind of motor generally gets there. A common refrain amongst college coaches is “Give me a 2-star player with 5-star effort over a 5-star player with 2-star effort”. The Raiders will get all five stars from Crosby.

It is a little early to start making roster predictions with training camp and the preseason still a few months away, but there are a few position battles that will take center stage, and possibly none as big as the starting defensive end spot. If he can put on some weight and prove he can hold up to the physicality of his position, “Mad Maxx” may find himself at the top of the depth chart at defensive end by opening day.

twitter: @ChrisReed_NFL

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2 thoughts on “Raiders Film Room: “Mad” Maxx Crosby Could Push for a Starting Role

  1. thanks for the great breakdown and advanced play analysis. I love his controlled aggression, he’s smart at reading the play and reacting and has quickness and explosion. Instinctive and athletic

    I also like that he’s only 21 years old and will now have world class strength coaching and resources so he should be able to bulk up and add strength quickly without losing his live flexible body. Football is now his full time job and if puts the same kind of effort into training that he does on the field, he could develop very quickly

    was wondering if you have any clips of him handling low blocks protecting legs

  2. Great to see Chris Reed at this site!
    Chris is THE best covering the Raiders. Love his work.

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