With so little depth at the defensive end position, Raiders fans were scratching their heads wondering why the Raiders weren’t more aggressive addressing the position in free agency. It meant they were sure to hit the position hard in the draft selecting Clelin Ferrell with the 4th overall pick and then nabbing Eastern Michigan DE Maxx Crosby with their first pick in the 4th round.
Crosby was relatively unknown in the pre-draft process but posted enough production in 3 years of college football (41 tackles for loss, 20.0 sacks, 8 forced fumbles) to earn a Combine invite. Crosby proved he belonged in the NFL with an outstanding show in athletic testing, running a 4.66 40-yard dash, 36-inch vertical, and 6.89 3-cone drill (tied for best at the DE position).
At 6’5’’ 255lbs Crosby is the size-speed player that Raiders fans associate with the Silver & Black. Crosby isn’t a finished product yet, but his college film shows an exciting player who has the potential to make an impact in the NFL.
Crosby has great football character, meaning he has a nasty demeanor on the field and hustles to make every play he possibly can. His motor and effort are readily apparent when watching him play.
The pass rush rep above against Purdue shows Crosby isn’t content to do his job and expect someone else make the play when it gets away from him. He runs down the quarterback trying to escape the pocket and keeps this scramble to a manageable gain for the defense.
Many defensive ends will do their responsibility when the run comes to their side but its rare to see one chase the play when it goes the opposite way. Crosby stays disciplined with his shoulders square to the line of scrimmage reading the hand-off ready to take the quarterback on a zone read. When the running back takes the ball and sprints in the opposite direction, Crosby shows off that 4.6 speed and chases him down for the tackle.
Probably one of the most fun plays in Crosby’s tape and shows the attitude he brings to the football field. Instead of going for a simple tackle, Crosby takes it a step further and violently punches the football out of the ball carrier’s hands. Violence, motor, effort, attitude, Crosby brings it all as a defensive end.
Against the run Crosby has room for improvement, namely getting stronger at the point of attack. He has the athleticism to make plays however but shouldn’t be asked to play base end in year one.
Crosby does a great job steering the tight end with his arms locked out and forcing the blocker into the backfield. He disengages at the right time to catch the running back unawares and drops him for minimal gain.
Crosby can make plays against the run at times just by being a great athlete. This tackle for loss probably isn’t how the coaches drew it up. Every defensive lineman in the country is told to collision pulling guards either with the inside or outside shoulder depending on the scheme and where the help is located. Crosby eschews convention in this play, side stepping the guard and taking the ball carrier down.
A great athlete for Mid-American Conference standards, Crosby did show he needed to gain strength in a few of his reps where he wasn’t able to lean on his athleticism. The Purdue tight end was able to solo block him quite a few times in the run game. This play shows Crosby’s limitations as a run defender and how he needs to get much stronger before playing run downs in the NFL.
Crosby’s highest upside comes as a pass rusher. His length and athleticism combined with his effort should allow him to be an impact pass rusher by the end of his rookie contract.
Crosby reads run first on this play. When he gets off the ball he has his shoulders square and making sure the QB doesn’t hand it off. When he sees the quarterback keeps it he explodes into the backfield for a sack. His ability to accelerate into the backfield will be his calling card as a pass rusher.
Crosby has a few moves up his sleeve as a straight dropback pass rusher as well. He uses a swipe move to bat the right tackle’s hands away before turning to corner to secure this sack.
Crosby also has an inside counter. When he reads the tackle over set to compensate against the speed difference between the two players, Crosby instantly sees his opening and uses a compact swim move inside to force this incomplete pass.
Against better offensive lineman however, Crosby showed his athleticism wasn’t always enough. When strong tackles got their hands on him, he had a hard time countering and disengaging.
Crosby isn’t ready to get major minutes on defense just yet. If forced into a starting role it’s likely he would have a similar impact last year as Arden Key last year, always around the football but lacking the strength and power to consistently finish. Crosby’s best role early in his career will be as a sub-package player where he can rush the passer before worrying too much about stopping the run while he gains strength. The Raiders defensive end rotation is showing a lot promise, between Ferrell, Key, and Crosby. Each of these young players has a chance to turn into a great pass rusher, the Raiders are smart to collect as many lottery tickets as possible.