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2021 Rewind: Maxx Crosby vs Baltimore Ravens

Reliving the pass rusher’s dominant season-opener

Baltimore Ravens v Las Vegas Raiders
Maxx Crosby
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

It’s June which means we’ve reached the dog days of summer, so I figured it’s a good time to kick off a column where we go back and relive some of the Las Vegas Raiders’ top performances of last season. First up, is the first game of the season where Maxx Crosby’s Pro Bowl campaign got off to a scorching hot start against the Baltimore Ravens.

The season opener was Crosby’s highest-graded game overall (93.0) by Pro Football Focus due in part to the 13 pressures he generated. The latter was the most among all defenders for the week and his 93.1 pass-rush grade was tied for first among edge defenders with his new teammate, Chandler Jones.

Crosby’s numbers against the run weren’t quite as eye-popping but still impressive nonetheless. He managed to generate three run stops which tied for the second-most at the position and helped him earn a solid 70.5 grade.

While the Pro Bowler’s outing looked great on paper, the tape was even prettier.

Crosby was recently seen at Von Miller’s Pass Rush Summit showing off how he executes his dirty spin move and we’ll get an example of it here.

It looks like he’s trying to work a line game or stunt with the defensive tackle — Solomon Thomas — initially but it doesn’t work. However, Crosby adapts, works back to the outside and puts Alejandro Villanueva — the right tackle — in a spin cycle to go get a hit on Lamar Jackson. Watch how at the top of the rush Villanueva looks lost or like he doesn’t know where Crosby is, and all he can try to do is trip the pass rusher. As a rusher, that’s how you know you got the offensive lineman good.

This is also a good example of what makes Crosby so great. He never quits and has the athleticism to get to the quarterback in just about any situation.

Another great pass rush but this time with an even better finish.

It’s third and 13 so the defensive line can pin ears back and get after the quarterback without having to worry too much about playing the run. Everyone, including Villanueva, knows Crosby has a great get-off, and Crosby uses that to his advantage by slow playing it off the line. That helps him get a two-way go, meaning he could work an inside or outside move, on the tackle and he kicks it into second gear as he starts to work his move.

Two things about this rep from the pass rusher that every defensive line coach will love; the use of hands and bend. His move isn’t terribly fancy, it’s just a simple hand swipe, but he has active hands to defeat the offensive lineman and finish with a strong rip to clear the blocker and help turn the corner.

Take a look at how tight of a turn he makes after clearing the tackle. Jackson is only about seven yards deep in the pocket when Crosby reaches his level, and Crosby makes nearly a 90-degree turn at full speed to go get the sack. If he’s a yard too deep, there’s a good chance Jackson scrambles and picks up the first down.

This next clip is another great example of how the hand swipe was effective for Crosby.

He changes up the timing of his swipe to throw off the tackle’s timing and balance, and his hands are so quick that this almost works like a ghost move where he takes his hands away so fast that the blocker is even more off balance. It proves to be extremely effective as Villanueva is left to hold on for dear life and ends up on the ground after Crosby finishes with a rip to get a clean win.

That, the interior pressure from Yannick Ngakoue, forces Jackson off his spot and to make an off-platform throw. Jackson just makes a pretty nice throw on the move, but those are the types of plays you want to force the former MVP to make.

It’s almost impossible to stop a pass rusher when they can win with finesse like the previous reps and with power like this one.

Crosby works up the field for his first few steps to get the left tackle — Ronnie Stanley, No. 79 — moving and prevent Stanley from anchoring. When Crosby gets about five yards deep into the pocket, he sticks his outside foot in the ground and accelerates and does an excellent job of turning speed into power.

What makes this move even more impressive is he gets his hand in the perfect spot, on the v of Stanley’s neck, uses one arm to get extension and gives a perfect example of what the saying “one arm is longer than two” means. Also, look at his pad level and how he’s able to gain a leverage advantage, all of which helps put the tackle on skates and prevents Jackson from being able to finish this throw.

At this point in the game, Crosby had been winning nearly play in and play out so Baltimore's coaching staff tries to give its offensive tackles some help by having a wide receiver chip him. However, the Raiders pick the perfect time to call a stunt so he’s more under control and already working inside.

He does get some help from Quinton Jefferson who is being a good teammate by occupying the guard as the penetrator on the T/E line game, but watch how Crosby doesn’t lose any ground while working laterally to get around Jefferson and the guard. That, plus some impressive acceleration allows him to close the pocket and get his second sack of the game.

This was also on third down late in the third quarter with the Raiders down seven, meaning it was a momentum-altering play.

Our first clip of Crosby playing the run, where the Ravens call an inside zone with Patrick Ricard — the tight end, No. 42 — working across the formation on the split zone action.

Normally, the offense would leave the backside defensive end unblocked and let Ricard take care of the end by himself, but Baltimore has their left tackle chip block Crosby before working up to the second level. They were clearly worried about him coming down the line of scrimmage and winning inside to blow up the play, however, Crosby still gets inside Ricard and is able to get involved in the tackle.

It also looks like Stanley’s — the left tackle — spacing is off while trying to block Denzel Perryman, which gives Perryman enough room to make the tackle. So, that’s one way how Crosby was able to help open things up for his teammates.

Our last clip comes from overtime where the Ravens have a first and 10 from the 30-yard line with a chance to win the game. They run an outside zone to Crosby’s side where Villanueva is going to try and reach the defensive end to open a lane to the outside or turn it into a drive block and ride the defensive end out.

However, the tackle does neither because the end does a great job of using his hands to defeat the block and secure the edge. The cherry on top here is Crosby finishes with a violent rip move to get Villanueva’s arms off him and disengage from the block to go factor into the play.

So, not only did he do his job and force the running back — Latavius Murray, No. 28 — to cut it up the field, but Crosby also finishes and finds a way to get on the stat sheet, again.