Las Vegas Raiders; Maxx Crosby

Raiders Superstar Maxx Crosby Is The Face Of A Much-Improved Defense

At long last, the Las Vegas Raiders finally look like a respectable defense in 2023. Although several players deserve praise for their stellar contributions so far, pass rusher Maxx Crosby is the heart and soul of the unit. For Raider Nation, the transition to reliable play on defense has been amazing to witness.

The One-Percenters

While elevating the standard and striving to become one-percent better each and every day, the Raiders found their new leader. Right before our very eyes, Maxx ‘The Condor’ Crosby has become the face of the franchise in Sin City. Behind the five-year veteran, three-time Pro-Bowler, and seemingly perennial All-Pro runner-up, the Silver and Black have formed an identity as a budding defensive team.

In the absence of gaudy offensive statistics and production, the defense has found a way to stand tall. Despite spending the third-fewest dollars on defense and a minuscule 22.1 percent of the salary cap — league average is 31.99 percent — that side of the ball is single-handedly saving the Raiders season.

The best ability is availability. Luckily, Raider Nation can always count on Madd Maxx suiting up and giving his best effort from the opening kickoff to the final whistle. Six games into the young 2023 campaign, Crosby ranks second in quarterback hurries, tied for fourth in tackles for loss, and tied for seventh in sacks and pressures. Crosby is, without a doubt, the unquestioned leader of the only productive phase of the team. There are others who are following his lead and choosing to improve daily; they deserve flowers, as well.

The Raiders Defense Is Hunting

Patrick Graham, the Raiders’ defensive coordinator, has quietly turned a bunch of castoffs, rookies, and undrafted players into a well-oiled machine. Even if fans dislike the way pass coverage is deployed at times, the Raiders surprisingly now boast the fourth most total interceptions in the league. Additionally, Vegas has a top-ten unit in fewest passing yards allowed (1,162 yards); they are tied for 15th in passing touchdowns allowed (8) and 14th in net yards per pass allowed (5.8).

Tre’von Moehrig, in his third season, finally looks comfortable in a system that is working to maximize his skill set. Since placing his hand in a cast, Moehrig has been an absolute monster. Robert Spillane and Divine Deablo are 21st and 23rd overall in tackles, good for 10th and 11th in the AFC, respectively.

A rotation in the middle of the defensive line is paying dividends for the Raiders. John Jenkins and Adam Butler continue to contribute. Bilal Nichols teamed up with Crosby to end Sunday’s game against the Patriots with a safety. Tyree Wilson hasn’t posted many numbers in the box score, but his impact grows larger with every additional week of experience.

Stingy With The Points; Can The Vegas Offense Provide Support?

In the entire season, the Raiders defense has only surrendered more than 20 points when the offense has given the ball away two or more times. Furthermore, they have yet to allow a 300-yard passer, even while playing the likes of Josh Allen and Justin Herbert.

Should-a, could-a, would-a is the favorite argument of those attempting to discredit the overall success of anything. Another popular critique is that this phenomenal defensive play came against a bunch of nobodies. But, last I checked, teams could only play who is on their schedule.

Moreover, this Raiders defense has had to overcome an offense that can’t stay on the field. The Jimmy Garoppolo-led unit is among the lowest in time of possession and leads the league in giveaways. The defense has been forced to hold teams under 17 points or less to win football games. That is not sustainable for the long haul; the group needs help from head coach Josh McDaniels and his offense.

So when someone asks what the identity of this team is… it’s not anyone on the offense. Maxx Crosby and the defense lay claim to that title.

*Top Photo: Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY Sports

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