The Las Vegas Raiders haven’t had a star defensive player since the days of Khalil Mack. The best chance for another comes in the form of another pass rusher in Maxx Crosby. Can he take that leap forward in Year 3?
A Day 3 steal
In the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft, the then-Oakland Raiders selected a massive defensive end from Eastern Michigan. This selection, a year after trading away star pass rusher Khalil Mack, was aimed to help bolster an anemic pass rush. For Crosby, the Day 3 selection only heightened his drive to improve as a player. Since that fourth round, one thing is for sure: there were not 106 players better than ‘Mad Maxx’ in that draft class.
In his rookie season, Crosby showed flashes of absolute dominance. Playing in all sixteen games, his ten sacks were a team-high. He also showed a knack for finding the football with four passes defensed and four forced fumbles. The thing that constantly showed up on film was his constant effort. Simply, he was never content with not being involved in a play and was always hunting the football.
Entering his sophomore season, the NFL was well aware of Crosby’s pass-rushing ability. As such, his statistical output was lessened. However, he still managed to lead the team in sacks again with seven. While he is not a star yet, he is on the radar of all NFL fans and is primed to explode in 2021.
Maxx Crosby made a name for himself after this dominant rookie season in 2019pic.twitter.com/76h88LOQNR
— Pro Football Network (@PFN365) June 28, 2021
Some added help in 2021
One of the biggest reasons Crosby will improve in 2021, is his new running mate, Yannick Ngakoue. In Ngakoue, the Raiders are getting an established pass rusher who is not only familiar with Gus Bradley’s scheme but has thrived in it. Back in his rookie year with Bradley in Jacksonville, Ngakoue recorded eight sacks. In 2021, he did the same thing. Not only were these eight sacks more than Maxx, but they would also have led the Raiders team.
Of course, eight sacks is hardly elite pass rusher numbers, however, doing so while being traded twice in 2020 helps put it into perspective. The Raiders will hope some continuity will help him return to higher statistical output.
The duo of Ngakoue and Crosby will be under a lot of pressure in 2021. Along with some contributions from Clelin Ferrell, the two will be asked to carry the Las Vegas pass rush. Raiders fans are rightly excited as this is the best pass-rushing pair they’ve had since the days of Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin.
A physically dominant player
The way that Crosby most often wins is through his physical superiority and outright competitiveness. Both of these things are here to stay for 2021. In addition, it is likely that Crosby will learn moves to add to his repertoire. If he can add more refinement to his game, the young pass rusher will very likely take the next step into NFL stardom.
Will Maxx Crosby make an All-Pro team in 2021? Probably not. However, he is certainly the Raiders’ best chance at a superstar pass rusher and he will do all he can to prove it in 2021. While an All-Pro nod is a lofty goal for any player, at this point, why would you ever doubt Maxx Crosby?
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*Top Photo: Associated Press/Reed Hoffmann