The Raiders' Week 10 win over the Los Angeles Chargers was Clelin Ferrell's time to shine; he notched two-and-a-half sacks, but this week against the Cincinnati Bengals it was his counterpart, Maxx Crosby, who took center stage.
Self-proclaimed as the Raiders version of Salt-N-Pepa, the tandem has been a force to be reckoned with the last few weeks, combining for seven sacks the last two games. Crosby finished Sunday's matchup with an insane four-sack performance, which is tied for the second most in NFL history by a rookie.
It might have been a breakout performance for Crosby, but he approached today's game the same way he's approached every gameday.
"I wouldn't say that," he said when asked if he did anything different ahead of Sunday's game. "I prepared all week like I always do and I came to play, just like everybody else on the team. So, I just tried to help my team win and that's what I try to do every week."
Head Coach Jon Gruden and General Manager Mike Mayock have lauded Crosby's motor since they selected him in the fourth round of this year's NFL Draft, and it was on full display against a Bengals offensive line that entered the matchup with 53 sacks.
"We've been talking about the factor grade here — and finally someone will count the sacks and write a nice story about him — but he's been near the quarterback, he's been hitting the quarterback, he's been batting balls down from the quarterback, and today he got to the quarterback," Gruden said postgame. "So, we're really pleased with his progress. You got to give him a lot of credit, he's a rookie from Eastern Michigan. He's gotten stronger, he's gotten better, and he's got a great future here."
Joining the Raiders as a fourth-round pick with a lot of raw talent, the coaching staff knew that Crosby had the tangibles to become a premier pass rusher in the NFL, but it would take time. Eleven weeks into his first season in the NFL and the pieces are all starting to come together, and he credits defensive line coach Brentson Buckner for helping him understand the game at a slower pace.
"I think it comes down to Coach 'Buck' on the mental side of things," he told reporters. "At first everything was going so fast and I was thinking too much, and my technique wasn't all there, but having him is super helpful."
Each week, you could tell Crosby was slowing dissecting the game and taking a step further in his maturation. Against the Chargers he had 10 quarterback pressures, the most for any Raider since 2016.
When Mayock and Gruden addressed the rookies at the start of the year, they pounded home the fact the team would need the rookies to step up if the Raiders were to succeed this year. Recently, the Raiders have relied heavily on the rookies to get the job done, and they've answered the call.
"That's what Coach Gruden and Mike Mayock… that was their vision was having us come in and have the vets who have experience and played a lot of football, and just gelling together," Crosby shared. "We're new to the game, the NFL is a completely different game than college. So, it takes a while and we're still growing, we still have so much room to improve, but it was good to finally see stuff coming together."
Not only are things coming together for Crosby, Ferrell, and the rest of the rookie class, but as a whole along the defensive line.