Raiders

Maxx Crosby could fit in right away as Raiders' situational pass rusher

Maxx Crosby could fit in right away as Raiders' situational pass rusher

The Raiders need so much help rushing off the edge that they drafted three defensive ends in the same class. Clelin Ferrell is the marquee name, taken with the No. 4 overall pick. Maxx Crosby is the mid-round prospect probably too good to be from such a small school. Quinton Bell is the late-round flier.

Pencil Ferrell in for all three downs. Do the same for Bell as a fringe contributor, maybe even on the practice squad. Crosby, however, is a wild card. The Eastern Michigan prospect could be a major player or rarely active on defense, depending on how he fares this preseason. Crosby’s potential impact covers a wide range, so let’s dig into it in the latest round of Raiders best- and worst-case scenarios.

Maxx Crosby

Draft slot: No. 106 overall (Fourth round)
Position: Defensive end
Height: 6-foot-5
Weight: 255 pounds
School: Eastern Michigan

Skill set

Crosby has a bit of a Tasmanian devil’s style, with all arms and elbows and aggressiveness off the edge. He never stops coming at you, even if he doesn’t always get home. His long frame and tenacity are ideal for the position and is working to bulk up a bit from 255 pounds, what he weighed to start rookie minicamp. The key is maintaining athleticism that makes him effective rushing the passer at a slightly (but not much) higher weight.

There are natural questions about how he’ll fare going from small-school competition to facing NFL blockers, so there’s plenty to prove even after making a strong impression during the Raiders offseason program. He has solid flexibility that helps get around larger tackles, but certainly needs to add strength to compete steadily at this level. He could be a solid producer if he develops technically and gains confidence by translating practice progress to game production.

Training camp proving ground

Crosby won’t work under the same pressure as Ferrell this summer, despite the Raiders’ desperate need for edge rushers. He doesn’t have to be solid in every phase right away, though progress is required throughout the preseason. So are some flashes, to show the Raiders enough juice to make him a prominent piece of the rotation. The Raiders need someone who can create chaos on obvious passing downs, and Crosby has the ability to do that.

Best-case scenario

The Raiders are so thin at end that the rub-on-a-lamp-and-make-a-wish hope might be Crosby playing full-time player right away. He would have to show something against the run in training camp and be a complete player the Raiders don’t necessarily expect from him right now.

They would also take a player who gets home all the time and can finish plays, pressuring the opposing quarterback into sacks and poor throwing decisions. If we’re going to push his ceiling for the purposes of this exercise, getting seven or so sacks would be a dream scenario for a defense that only had 13 all of last year.

Worst-case scenario

Crosby is a mid-round selection from a small school, so expectations shouldn’t be high. That said, failing to find a regular role off the edge as a rookie would count as a disappointment and put tons of pressure on Ferrell and Arden Key, unproven players operating without much beyond Benson Mayowa in support.

They don’t need the world from Crosby, but they need him to provide a spark at times. Not getting it would hurt an already thin pass rush.

[RELATED: Best-, worst-case scenarios for Trayvon Mullen]

Realistic expectations

The Raiders hoped Key would become be productive as a situational pass rusher last year, before trades and cuts forced the LSU product into a larger role that proved overwhelming.

Crosby’s role should remain narrow, allowing him to focus on two things during the regular season. See quarterback. Get quarterback. That will keep his snaps down and possibly boost his effectiveness as a rookie. Five sacks and steady pressure would be a nice start for a player who could grow into a bigger role as he gains experiences and develops at a proper pace, without unrealistic hopes and expectations placed upon him.

Raiders lacking receiving production outside Tyrell Williams, Darren Waller

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AP

Raiders lacking receiving production outside Tyrell Williams, Darren Waller

ALAMEDA –Tyrell Williams is the Raiders’ unquestioned No. 1 receiver, operating with all the attention accompanying that distinction.

He has still managed to produce like one, with 11 catches for 151 yards and two touchdowns during the season’s opening weeks. Tight end Darren Waller is the second receiving option despite his official position, moving around the formation to create favorable matchups.

The Raiders don’t have many viable receiving options after that.

Ryan Grant is starting now with Antonio Brown in New England, and he had minus-2 yards and a catch on five targets. Hunter Renfrow had four catches for 30 yards no eight targets. Dwyane Harris isn’t much of a receiving threat – he’s also dealing with an ankle issue – and Keelan Doss remains a work in progress.

“We have to do a better job of winning when it’s one-on-one,” head coach Jon Gruden said in his Monday press conference. “We have to do a better job of consistently winning. We had some problems with the footing yesterday. I think Hunter Renfrow fell down four or five times and slipped. …Our footing was a problem.

“We certainly have to get more out of Ryan Grant. We have to game plan better. We’ll start right there.”

Receiving corps troubles don’t start with the offensive game plan. That’s just fine, brought up in an attempt to circumvent a significant dropoff from the top two receiving threats.

The Raiders and their fan base are certainly sick of hearing about Brown, but this is where his departure remains relevant. Not only did the Raiders lose a Hall-of-Fame type talent, they lost one just days before the regular season. That left no time to find a suitable replacement.

The Raiders banked on Brown, a decision that has proved ill advised. Gruden created packages for him to thrive in this offense and maximize his game-breaking ability.

The chasm between Brown and Grant is wide, something that can’t be covered before free agency or next year’s draft.

Receiver was also clearly a team strength that has fallen back to the pack with Brown’s departure. Keeping him around wasn’t going to work, but losing him still hurts the on-field product.

Waller is proving to be a special player the Raiders must involve even more, especially when working downfield.

“Waller is growing into something,” Gruden said. “He’s a guy that we detached yesterday. We lined him up in the slot and conventionally as a tight end. He’s smart and has had some receiving production. More and more, we’re going to use him.”

Grant and Renfrow have to balance the stat sheet a bit more, with the running backs more involved than they have been to keep additional focus off the top two receiving targets.

Raiders snap count: Pass rush rotation not productive enough vs. Chiefs

Raiders snap count: Pass rush rotation not productive enough vs. Chiefs

OAKLAND -- The Raiders are employing a heavy rotation along the defensive front, something they planned for all summer. Everyone contributes in some sense, with Clelin Ferrell and Johnathan Hankins as mainstays in most packages.

The Raiders still aren’t getting enough quarterback pressure, even with three sacks in Sunday’s 28-10 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. It’s hard to say the Raiders impacted Patrick Mahomes comfort in the pocket, creating 11 total pressures on 46 total dropbacks. 

Analytics site Pro Football Focus deemed Mahomes under pressure just eight times, and he was 4-for-6 for 33 yards in those instances. The reigning MVP had a 139.1 passer rating without facing pressure, expected sums from such an excellent signal-caller. 

While the defensive backs took heat after Sunday’s game, it’s appropriate, and noted by a few Raiders, that the pass rush shares some of the blame for a 28-point second-quarter explosion.

“We didn’t get enough pressure,” head coach Jon Gruden said. “We let Mahomes move around back there and cock his arm, and when he gets an opportunity to do that he can drop them in there no matter where they are. I tip my hat to them and we have to do a better job next time.”

[RELATED: What went wrong in Raiders' second-quarter meltdown]

That includes the Raiders’ rotational pass rushers. Arden Key’s solid preseason hasn’t translated to regular-season success, a point clear in Week 2. He had just one quarterback pressure in 24 snaps. Maxx Crosby had just one in 29 snaps, though he was also flagged for a controversial roughing-the-passer infraction that didn’t seem appropriate.

Benson Mayowa has been the team’s most productive edge rusher, and might see his playing time increase after tallying 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble on just 18 snaps.

The Raiders might have to adjust their rotations to create more opportunities for hot hands, though it will help not having to face Mahomes each week.

Offense

Total offensive snaps: 65

Quarterback -- Derek Carr 65

Running back -- Josh Jacobs 30, Jalen Richard 20, DeAndre Washington 15, Alec Ingold 5

Wide receiver -- Tyrell Williams 61, Ryan Grant 49, Hunter Renfrow 49, Dwayne Harris 5, Keelan Doss 4

Tight end -- Darren Waller 62, Foster Moreau 15, Derek Carrier 9

Offensive line -- Jordan Devey 65, Denzelle Good 65, Kolton Miller 65, Rodney Hudson 65, Trent Brown 51, Brandon Parker 15

Defense

Total defensive snaps: 68

Defensive line -- Clelin Ferrell 58, Johnathan Hankins 58, P.J. Hall 43, Josh Mauro 38, Maurice Hurst 36, Maxx Crosby 29, Arden Key 24, Benson Mayowa 18

Linebacker -- Vontaze Burfict 72, Tahir Whitehead 63, Nicholas Morrow 17, Marquel Lee 6

Defensive back -- Daryl Worley 74, Gareon Conley 74, Lamarcus Joyner 70, Karl Joseph 48, Erik Harris 42, Curtis Riley 31, Trayvon Mullen 28, Keisean Nixon 7

Special teams

Harris 23, Kyle Wilber 22, Nixon 22, Carrier 20, Lee 19, Moreau 16, Morrow 12, Harris 12, Ingold 11, Joseph 10, Trent Sieg 8, AJ Cole 8, Crosby 8, Worley 8, Riley 5, Daniel Carlson 5, Whitehead 5, Ferrell 5, Washington 5, Burfict 5, Hurst 4, Richard 4, Hankins 4, Mullen 3, Andre James 2, Conley 2, Brown, Devey 2, Miller 2, Good 2, Parker 2, Key 1, Mayowa 1, Hall