How Maxx Crosby built foundation for excellent Raiders rookie season

How Maxx Crosby built foundation for excellent Raiders rookie season

Trent Brown is a mountain of a man, and shockingly agile for his size. Besting the Raiders right tackle is tough business, a feat few actually accomplish.

Maxx Crosby did it a couple times during his rookie Raiders training camp. Not many, naturally, but the edge rusher took note and stood a little taller after each win. Those seemingly throwaway moments meant something to Crosby. They fueled his belief that he could play in the NFL.

“You get to beat a guy like that a couple times and you think you can do well against anybody,” Crosby said last week in an interview with NBC Sports Bay Area. “That was the main thing for me, going against Trent and building my confidence. I was able to take that right into the season.”

Well, after recovering from a physical setback. Crosby broke his hand in the first preseason game and missed the remaining three in recovery.

“It took some time to get back in the flow of things. Around Week 4 or 5 I started to feel 100 percent and was able to get in a good rhythm and have confidence in my hand,” Crobsy said. “Things really took off from there.”

They certainly did. Crosby had two batted passes and a forced fumble in a Week 4 victory over the Indianapolis Colts as he played an expanded role. He had the first of 10 sacks in 12 games in Week 5, where he became a three-down player.

This fourth-round NFL draft pick from Eastern Michigan, with one college scholarship, proved a steal and ended up the runner-up for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa won by a landslide as the obvious pick, but Crosby received votes and was in attendance Saturday at the NFL Honors awards show.

His mother escorted him down the red carpet to cap an excellent rookie season that included a meteoric rise to prominence.

He’s still carrying forward momentum, going from awards shows to buying a house in the Las Vegas area this week in anticipation of the Raiders moving there this summer. Even with the NFL season now over, Crosby says he hasn’t taken a moment to review his unexpected first year in the league.

“Everything has happened so fast that I haven’t really had time to sit back and think about things,” Crosby said. “For me, this is what I was born to do. I love playing football. There’s nothing else. I really didn’t have a Plan B. I put all my eggs in one basket. That’s just the truth. I’m doing what I’m supposed to do.

I’m having so much fun. Just having my name in the conversation for Rookie of the Year is all that matters to me.”

[RELATED: Carr unfazed by questions on Raiders future, brother says]

He wasn’t expected to win despite having 10 sacks, 16 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles, four batted passes and 45 total quarterback pressures. Bosa was that good. But there’s no discounting Crosby’s year. He was relentless rushing the passer and proved a far better run defender than many thought.

Crosby had 1.5 sacks in the regular-season finale to reach double digits, a point-of-pride milestone he hopes will be the bar for all seasons moving forward.

“As a defensive end, you want to reach double digits,” Crosby said. “Getting to that level as a rookie was super special to me. I came in as the third-string defensive end, a situational guy who can’t stop the run. Playing my position is about more than just sacks. It’s about being disruptive. Everyone can break down the technique and all that, but I just try to make plays.

"That’s what I’ve been doing for a few years in college before entering the NFL. Now I’m doing it in front of more people. That’s what I plan on doing for the rest of my career.”

Raiders' chance to end playoff drought would improve with NFL proposal

Raiders' chance to end playoff drought would improve with NFL proposal

More isn't always better, but in the Raiders' case, it nearly would have been.

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the NFL reportedly is considering a proposal that would expand the postseason structure to add a seventh playoff team to each conference.

If the proposal passes, only one team per conference would receive a first-round bye in the playoffs, as opposed to the top-two seeds under the current format. With the No. 1 seed getting a bye, the No. 2 seed would face the No. 7 seed, No. 3 would face No. 6 and No. 4 would face No. 5 in the wild-card round, with the higher seed playing at home.

Had the proposal been in effect this past season, the Raiders still would have missed out on the postseason, but just barely. At 7-9, Jon Gruden's club finished a full game behind the 8-8 Pittsburgh Steelers, who ultimately would have been the seventh team and final team in the AFC playoffs.

Adding to the excruciating factor, one-third of the Raiders' losses came by four or fewer points, including two in the final three weeks of the regular season. If they end up winning those nailbiters, that might have been enough to sneak into the postseason under the new proposed format. On the other hand, Pittsburgh lost its final three games of the season, including two by one score, so the Steelers could make the same argument.

[RELATED: Report: Growing sense teams could trade for Raiders QB Carr]

What's done is done, however, and the Raiders now have missed out on the playoffs three years running. Adding another playoff spot automatically would increase their chances of ending that drought in their first season in Las Vegas, but then again, it also would the playoff chances for the other 14 teams in the AFC.

NFL rumors: Teams sense opportunity to trade for Raiders QB Derek Carr

NFL rumors: Teams sense opportunity to trade for Raiders QB Derek Carr

The Raiders have a new home and soon will occupy a brand-new stadium. Might they also have a new quarterback under center for the first snap of the 2020 season?

There has been rampant speculation that Las Vegas might be interested in trading for legendary Patriots quarterback Tom Brady or possibly trading up to acquire one of the top QB prospects in the upcoming 2020 NFL Draft. Should either situation play out, but especially the former, it almost would certainly mean Derek Carr would be moved elsewhere.

Carr carries a $21.5 million cap hit for the 2020 season, and it would be almost impossible to field a competitive team with that much salary allocated to a backup.

Coach Jon Gruden gave a lukewarm endorsement of the quarterback following the Raiders' final season in Oakland, but both he and general manager Mike Mayock have maintained they'll look at every possible way to upgrade the roster for the team's first season in Sin City. Whether or not that means replacing Carr is anyone's guess, but if that's the route they choose to go, it sounds as if they might not have trouble finding a trade partner.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal's Vincent Bonsignore reported Tuesday night that momentum is building towards teams inquiring with the Raiders about potentially trading for Carr.

Carr has three more seasons left on his current contract, so any team that would acquire him would either need to have ample cap space or send some significant salary back to the Raiders. He'll turn 29 years old next month, and one could argue he's just entering his prime after posting career-bests in passing yards, completion percentage, yards per attempt and passer rating last season.

[RELATED: Carr unfazed by questions on Raiders future, brother says]

If Carr isn't the Raiders' QB for the first season in Vegas, they better be confident they've found a better fit for the organization moving forward.