The New Orleans Saints have a lot of weapons on their offense that the Silver and Black need to be attentive to, but none may be more urgent than No. 9 behind center.
It's no secret Drew Brees has his name all over the NFL record books. He's the NFL career leader in passing yards, passing touchdowns, passes completed and passing completion percentage. Not to mention his 16-7 record in Monday Night Football games since joining the Saints in 2006.
Coach Gruden has the highest level of respect for Brees as a quarterback and a competitor, especially for his longevity.
"Just amazing the effort that he continues to put into it," Gruden said Thursday. "I think it starts there – physically, mentally – he's always into it at the top of his game. He sacrifices more than people realize. And he's one of the all-time, top-4, top-5 competitors I've ever met in my life, and that's about the best compliment I can give anybody."
Meanwhile, the second-year standout Maxx Crosby is looking forward to the challenge that comes along with playing against a quarterback with the pedigree of Brees. Like any good competitor, Crosby was critical of his performance in the win against the Panthers, and he's looking to elevate his game going against Brees.
"Upfront we know we got to be better," said Maxx Crosby. "I know personally I didn't play to level that I wanted to play, so I'm really excited. I'm anxious to get back on the field. We've got to disrupt (Brees), we can't let him sit back there and get comfortable. We've got to be in his face all game; we've got to make plays. We're definitely looking forward to the challenge."
It's a tall task on the other side of the ball. The Saints are lining up three Pro Bowl offensive lineman, and the Raiders' defense, while talented, is still young and building chemistry. Crosby believes it's just a matter of time before he and the defense can click on all cylinders.
"I know I'm going to get some attention; I just got to play to the best of my ability. We're just trying to gel right now, and that's the main thing we're working on. ... Obviously Drew Brees is a Hall of Famer, there's no question about it. It's going to be a challenge, but it doesn't matter who we're playing, we're not scared of anybody or anything like that. This is the NFL, and we're all professionals so we've just got to go out there and do our thing."
Coach Gruden agrees that disrupting Drew Brees will be the biggest obstacle for his young defensive line.
"It's going to the greatest challenge there is; he's the best," said Coach Gruden "He's thrown for more yards than anyone who's ever played the position, so it will be a challenge."
A challenge fit for under the lights, as Allegiant Stadium hosts the first NFL game in Las Vegas history.
"Getting to play on Monday Night is going to be awesome," said Crosby. "Obviously we wish the fans were in the crowd and it was going to be an insane environment, but we're going to have to wait for that."
View photos from practice at Intermountain Healthcare Performance Center as the Raiders prepare for their home opener against the New Orleans Saints.