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.”
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.”