The Raiders have had high hopes for defensive end Arden Key since selecting him in the third round of the 2018 draft.
The former LSU standout looks the part of a pass rusher at 6-foot-5 and 238 pounds and flashed the talent in college that led the Raiders to believe he could provide consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Yet Key had a disappointing first season in Oakland, getting just one sack in 16 games (starting 10).
Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther, however, said late last season that the sack number could have been much higher, because he often got to the passer but had trouble getting him to the ground.
“He should have about eight sacks,” Guenther said.
Now, Key not only has to raise his own level of play to keep his starting job at one defensive end opposite top 2019 pick Clelin Ferrell, but he’ll have to fight off a challenge from rookie Maxx Crosby, a fourth-round choice from Eastern Michigan.
And, the analytic website Pro Football Focus this week predicted Crosby will win that duel.
Mark Chichester of Pro Football Focus wrote that Crosby graded much higher during his college career than Key and had 112 QB pressures over his final two college seasons – the second best total in the nation.
Wrote Chichester: “Not only was he productive in the passing game, but he also proved to be mightiliy productive against the run.” Chichester said Crosby had the 10th-best grade in the country as an edge defender against the run in 2018.
Crosby, who is 6-foot-5 and 255 pounds, is seen by some NFL scouts as a player who needs to add some extra weight and muscle to succeed as a pro. But there’s no denying he’s a fierce player with a high motor and drive to get to the quarterback.
In a one-on-one duel with Key for the starting job opposite Ferrell, Chichester believes Crosby will earn more snaps and starts.
“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,” wrote Chichester.
This post was originally posted at http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/Rookie-Crosby-Will-Battle-With-Arden-Key-at-Defensive-End-510863031.html.