The Oakland Raiders thought they had picked a situational pass rusher when they took Eastern Michigan end Maxx Crosby in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
They were wrong, as it turned out ... but it's a safe bet no one is complaining.
Crosby had 10 sacks, including one of Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers in an Oct. 20 42-24 loss at Lambeau Field. After Rodgers was on the ground, Crosby mocked him by doing Rodgers' “discount double-check” move from State Farm insurance commercials on television.
“You know, that to me is a jaw-dropping number not a lot of people know about,” coach Jon Gruden told reporters. “I mean, he had 10 sacks as a rookie.”
Crosby showed enough he eventually started 10 games for a team that went 7-9 after a 4-12 effort in 2018. His season numbers include:
► 47 tackles, including 36 solo
► 16 tackles for loss
► four forced fumbles
► four passes defensed
Besides the sacks, Crosby had five quarterback hits and 29 hurries. His rookie sack total was second to Jacksonville's Josh Allen, who had 10.5. The league leader was Shaquil Barrett of Tampa Bay (19.5). The Raiders had 13 sacks two seasons ago; in 2019 the total was 32.
Crosby's four-sack effort against Ryan Finley and Cincinnati on Nov. 17 in a 17-10 win earned him AFC defensive player-of-the-week honors. Crosby also had eight pressures in that game.
He suffered a broken left hand in the preseason, making a tackle Aug. 10 against the Los Angeles Rams, but it didn't deter him.
“I think I’ve taken strides,” Crosby, a 6-foot-5, 255-pounder, told NBC Sports. “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."
Fellow rookie edge rusher Clelin Ferrell, who had 4.5 sacks, and Crosby were training camp roommates, and they helped each other during the early season.
“I’ve seen growth in Maxx,” Ferrell, a first-rounder from Clemson, told reporters. “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.”
Crosby, who had 20 sacks in three seasons at EMU, isn’t content, realizing there’s better times ahead for the entire defensive line.
“We’re off to a good start, but we have tons of room to grow,” said Crosby, 22, who was born in Rochester, Michigan, but played high school football in Colleyville, Texas. “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.”
Crosby, meanwhile, is far from forgotten at Eastern.
"We are all so fired up about Maxx's season," coach Chris Creighton said in an e-mail to The Detroit News. "Whenever I got to see him play, it looked like Maxx. We couldn't block him, our opponents couldn't block him and the NFL struggled to block him.
"He came back for homecoming, and it was a blast for our team to spend some time with him. His ceiling is very, very high. He is obviously on track to have an incredible career in the NFL."
Here's a rundown on Maxx Crosby's 10-sack rookie season.
► Chase Daniels of the Bears, Week 5, -5 yards.
► Aaron Rodgers of the Packers, Week 7, -8 yards
► Philip Rivers of the Chargers, Week 10, -8 yards
► Ryan Finley of the Bengals, Week 11, -11, -8, -9 and -9 yards
► Sam Darnold of the Jets, Week 12, -2 yards
► Gardner Minshew of the Jaguars, Week 15, -4 yards
► Drew Lock of the Broncos, Week 17, -9, -14 yards
The sack against Rivers and one of the Lock sacks produced fumbles. This list includes two half-sacks.
► Maxx Crosby’s 10 sacks rank second all-time in Raiders franchise history for a rookie, behind Greg Townsend’s 10.5 in 1983.
► His four sacks in Week 11 tied for second-most by a rookie in NFL history.
► Crosby is the fourth rookie in NFL history with four sacks in a game.
► His Week 11 effort set a franchise record for most sacks in a game by a rookie.
► Crosby is the second in franchise history with double-digit sacks as a rookie.
Art Brooks is a retired Detroit News sports copy editor and was a longtime volunteer at EMU's student paper, the Eastern Echo.