Maxx Crosby took Drew Lock down twice in the Raiders' regular-season finale. He split the first sack with Johnathan Hankins and claimed the second as his own. He flung the Broncos quarterback to the ground and forced a fumble in the process, with Clelin Ferrell recovering to give the Raiders a chance to erase a deficit.
The Silver and Black weren’t able to complete a comeback and lost 16-15 that day in Denver, but those plays illustrate the profound impact Crosby had on the Raiders this season.
They also hit a milestone, giving Crosby 10 sacks on the season.
“You know, that to me is a jaw-dropping number not a lot of people know about,” Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said. “I mean, he had 10 sacks as a rookie.”
That’s a massive number for a fourth-round NFL draft pick from a small school you’ve never heard of scheduled to be a situational pass rusher. Crosby thrived in a full-time role earned in Week 4 and sustained is throughout an excellent season.
He finished with 46 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles and four passes defensed. He was a solid edge run defender and proved a prolific pass rusher with an always-revving motor. Crosby had 10 sacks, five quarterback hits and 29 hurries. He won on 6.4 percent of his pressures as a rookie, a number that improved as the season wore on. His rookie sack total was second only to Josh Allen.
Those numbers vaulted Crosby into the Defensive Rookie of the Year conversation. That award’s going to 49ers rookie Nick Bosa and deservedly so, but that shouldn’t discount Crosby’s season or the Raiders’ excellent return on investment for a fourth-round pick.
Crosby’s progress was slowed by a broken hand in the preseason, but he quickly found his way and made significant progress on the job.
“I think I’ve taken strides,” Crosby said. “The main thing is mentally being confident and trusting my technique and trusting coaches. That allows you to play 100 miles per hour. That takes time, and I feel like I finally started to get in a groove.
Crosby hit a groove around midseason, where the pressures were more consistent. That ramped the entire Raiders pass rush up a notch, especially during a three-game winning streak that pushed the Silver and Black into serious playoff contention. His best game came in Week 11, when he had eight pressures, including four sacks, against the Cincinnati Bengals. That capped a run of at least seven pressures in three of four games and showed how impactful he could be.
Fellow rookie edge rusher Clelin Ferrell had a monster game in that mix, and those two leaned on each other during good times just as they had in early-season struggles.
“I’ve seen growth in Maxx,” Ferrell said. “We keep each other grounded. We’ve been through the ups and downs and everything people have said about us, and he has always kept a level head through this whole entire thing. That’s the biggest thing, and I feel like I aid into that. If I’m having a bad day, he keeps my spirits high. If he’s having a bad day, I keep his spirits high. We both know that, at the end of the day, we need to get it done together. Me and Maxx, we’re the future.”
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Crosby wasn’t content with his huge rookie season, knowing there’s better ahead for him and the entire Raiders defensive line.
“We’re off to a good start, but we have tons of room to grow,” Crosby said. “It didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to [with a playoff spot], but we’re going to keep working hard and get one.”