The Oakland Raiders offense has received some much-deserved praise during OTAs this offseason and it doesn’t seem like that’s going to stop anytime soon. Specifically Derek Carr, Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams have been on the end of a lot of this praise. However, there are players on the defensive side of the ball that are also quickly making names for themselves.
Rookie safety Johnathon Abram has been quickly working his way up the depth chart and found himself taking first-team reps on Tuesday. Abram is earning a reputation as someone who exudes confidence. Starting linebacker Tahir Whitehead had this to say about the rookie:
“He’s a young guy coming in showing how confident he is. I love that. We can build off of that. We need more guys with belief in their skill set and bringing that attitude to the entire team. That’s going to take us a long way.”
Abram has decided to take the number 24 for himself. He will be following in the footsteps of the recently retired Marshawn Lynch and Charles Woodson who both wore the number during their time in Oakland. Raiders Hall of Famer Willie Brown and former Raider all-pro Michael Huff also wore number 24. Needless to say, any player wearing that number has a lot to live up to, especially a defensive back.
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Lookin’ Like a Cadillac
One could be forgiven for not being familiar with the name Maxx Crosby. The defensive end out of Eastern Michigan was selected in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL draft to little fanfare. That being said, there are those who believe he could be the steal of the draft. Crosby is a freak of an athlete. The 6’5, 255-pound lineman ran a 4.66 40-yard dash at the combine. Yes, you read that correctly: 4.66 40-yard dash for a lineman. Crosby also had solid production during his time at Eastern Michigan. He put up 41 tackles for loss and 20 sacks in just 24 starts.
The biggest knock on Crosby is that he didn’t have enough muscle to be ready for the NFL. Despite his lack of bulk, he’s received high praise from his new defensive coordinator Paul Guenther:
“Maxx, he looks like a Cadillac coming off the edge. He’s long. He’s loose. He’s quick off the ball, and I think he’s going to make a big jump in this first year.”
There’s also been speculation that he could beat out incumbent Arden Key, who suffers from a similar lack of strength, for the starting job. Mark Chichester at Pro Football Focus stated that “Crosby’s all-around talent makes him perfectly suited for the early-down spot opposite Ferrell, while Key could be limited to a designated pass-rushing role going forward.”
This would be a disappointing development for Key who was expected to have a large role in 2019. Regardless, with additions of first-round pick Clelin Ferrell and Crosby, the Raiders should show much improvement over the pedestrian unit they fielded in 2018.
Joyner Moving to the Slot
When the Raiders brought on former Los Angeles Rams safety LaMarcus Joyner and drafted the aforementioned Abram, many thought this meant the end for former first-round pick Karl Joseph. However, reports out of training camp are that Karl Joseph is lining up as the first-team safety and LaMarcus Joyner is seeing time as a slot corner.
This is good news for Joseph as he’s entering a contract year after the Raiders declined his fifth-year option. Abram and Joseph will likely be the two starting safeties when the season starts, which would mean that Raiders have two killers in their defensive backfield.