Raiders

Raiders rookie Maxx Crosby honored to be compared to 'legend' Ted Hendricks

Raiders rookie Maxx Crosby honored to be compared to 'legend' Ted Hendricks

Raiders general manager Mike Mayock had been following Maxx Crosby for months leading up to the NFL draft, with an eye on making him a mid-round selection.

Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden were giving Mark Davis a prospect briefing last month when the Eastern Michigan edge rusher’s film came on screen, and the Raiders owner instinctively made a lofty comparison.

“Right away, it’s, ‘Oh my God, that’s Ted Hendricks, that’s the ‘Mad Stork,’” Mayock said last week in an interview with SiriusXM radio. “You could almost (see it), with all the arms and legs, he’s so thin and so tall.”

Their builds are similar. Hendricks was a lanky 6-foot-7, 220 pounds of havoc creation. Crosby’s a bit thicker, standing 6-5, 255. Highlight reels show both guys causing chaos with long arms moving all over the place

The Mad Stork did most everything well for 15 NFL seasons, including nine with the Raiders, and was rightfully given a gold jacket. Crosby has done so against small-school competition, and is a fourth-round pick just getting started.

The comparison isn’t apples to apples in every sense, but Davis' link isn't out of left field. Any connection drawn between a rookie and a Pro Football Hall of Fame player can be daunting, but Crosby accepted it appropriately.

“It’s an honor. He’s a legend,” Crosby said last week. “It’s kind of crazy, just seeing all the feedback (since the draft). It’s been mostly positive and fans here in Oakland are die-hards. It’s an honor to be here, to play for such a legendary organization and I can’t wait to go put it out on the field.”

Crosby was productive at Eastern Michigan, with 18.5 sacks and eight forced fumbles over his last two college seasons. There is some development Crosby desperately needs in order to provide pressure off the edge in the NFL.

“He plays every snap like his hair is on fire, that’s No. 1. No. 2, he has length. No. 3, he ran in the 4.6’s, low 4.6’s if I remember at 255 pounds and 6-foot-5. So he has some twitch,” Mayock said in a post-draft press conference. “He has length, he has twitch. He has a great motor. What he doesn’t have yet is power. He doesn’t have strength yet, and he needs to develop that. When I got on the phone with him, I told him that his future was going to be dependent on a Gruden, but not the one he thought. It’s going to be [strength and conditioning assistant coach] Deuce [Gruden]. I wanted him to get philosophically connected at the hip with Deuce because he has to get stronger. But I love his tape because he plays his ass off on every play.”

While Crosby gained more than 40 pounds in college, the next stage of his physical development is more about power than considerable extra bulk. Gruden’s son Deuce is a world class powerlifter, and can help Crosby add the strength required to compete against NFL offensive tackles and tight ends.

“I’ve already talked to him a few times and the whole strength staff. I can’t wait to get after it,” Crosby said. “…They just want me to get stronger. I don’t think weight is the biggest issue, I’m around 255 right now. I just have to keep getting stronger and I have all summer to do that. I’m going to do everything I can to make that happen.”

[RELATED: Why Raiders rookie Mullen believes Oakland is perfect fit]

Expectations won’t be as high for Crosby as for No. 4 overall pick Clelin Ferrell. The Clemson product will ideally be a three-down player right away. Finding efficient production as a situational pass rusher would be a good start for Crosby. He’s a tremendous athlete the Raiders believe can develop into a productive pro.

“He’s ‘Mad Maxx,’” coach Jon Gruden said. “He comes off the ball repeatedly with great effort. I like that relentless style he plays with. He’s gotten bigger and stronger every year that he’s played and some of his second effort production is what stands out the most, but he really tested well at the combine. He’s got real big upside.”

Raiders agree to one-year contract with offensive guard Jonathan Cooper

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Raiders agree to one-year contract with offensive guard Jonathan Cooper

With training camp right around the corner, the Raiders made a move to bolster their offensive line depth.

On Monday, the Raiders agreed to a contract with guard Jonathan Cooper, the club announced.

Cooper, a 2013 first-round draft pick of the Arizona Cardinals in 2013, gives the Raiders another interior lineman to fill in for Richie Incognito who is suspended for the first two games of the season. Denzelle Good also will see time at the left guard spot.

After being drafted by the Cardinals, Cooper has bounced around the league, spending time with the San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys, Cleveland Browns and Washington. 

[RELATED: Raiders' 2019 success will be determined by three players]

At 6-foot-2, 308 pounds, the 29-year-old should be able to fill in for Incognito and still has the ability to be a quality offensive lineman if he is able to stay healthy.

NFL preview 2019: Raiders' three most important players for next season

NFL preview 2019: Raiders' three most important players for next season

There are a few different paths the 2019 Raiders can take. 

They can travel a similar road to 2018, with an offense that looks like it hasn't left 1999 and a defense that's incapable of getting off the field. That one's no fun and will make for a miserable final year in Oakland.

Door No. 2 has the Raiders' offense improving drastically in 2019, with the additions of Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams, Hunter Renfrow and Josh Jacobs expected to give quarterback Derek Carr the necessary weapons to torture opposing defenses. Door No. 2 also sees the defense continue to struggle as the young Raiders experience growing pains and limp to a mediocre finish, somewhere around 7-9.

But let's talk about Door No. 3. After all, the great thing about sports is that hope always springs eternal.

Do the Raiders have the talent on both sides of the ball to go from a 4-12 campaign to a potential playoff berth? Possibly.

But if the Silver and Black are to have a successful 2019, they will need three players in particular to have big seasons to lead them back to the postseason.

Derek Carr, QB

This one is a no-brainer.

It's Year 2 in Jon Gruden's system and the Fresno State product now has a number of offensive weapons at his disposal. The Raiders attempted to solidify the offensive line by signing Trent Brown, picked up Brown and Williams to be weapons on the outside, and drafted Jacobs to give them a more dynamic threat out of the backfield.

Carr is confident in his grasp of the playbook after a full season and appears to have already developed good chemistry with Brown and Williams.

With the weapons in place and the system further ingrained, the Raiders need Carr to get back to his 2016 MVP-level form in order to successfully navigate a brutal schedule. If he can do that, the Raiders could be a dangerous team in 2019.

Clelin Ferrell, DE

It might not be fair to put this much pressure on the rookie, but the Raiders absolutely need him to be productive this season. Forget productive, Ferrell must have an instant impact if the Raiders are to be successful.

Many people saw the drafting of Ferrell as a reach, especially for a team that is in desperate need of pass rushers who can make an immediate impact. Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock ignored the knocks on Ferrell and drafted the Clemson product with the No. 4 overall pick in April.

Now, Ferrell must reward their faith by becoming a three-down edge rusher who can impact the game starting Week 1.

The Raiders' defense was atrocious at pressuring the quarterback in 2018, registering an NFL-worst 13 total sacks, while allowing opposing teams to score 29.2 points per game (also a league-worst).

Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther is building a defense and Ferrell has to be a key part of that unit right away for the Raiders to turn their fortunes around.

[RELATED: Biggest question for each AFC West team]

Lamarcus Joyner, CB/S

Did I mention the defense was horrific last year? OK, good.

Enter: Lamarcus Joyner.

The Raiders signed the veteran safety at the start of the new league year. Joyner will move around in the back end of Oakland's defense, but he should spend a lot of time at slot corner, with Karl Joseph and rookie Johnathan Abram getting the bulk of the time at safety in the base defense.

With Gareon Conley and Daryl Worley expected to start at the outside corner positions, Joyner's versatility and leadership in the secondary will be paramount for Guenther's unit.

Joyner has been mentoring Abram early on in the offseason program, and his leadership will go along way to helping the Mississippi State product feel comfortable in the starting role, which in turn can allow Joyner to settle into the slot corner position that would most benefit the Raiders' defense.

Carr. Ferrell. Joyner. As they go, so do the 2019 Raiders.