Just like that, the Las Vegas Raiders’ second-year, Salt-N-Pepa Connection reunited at Derek Carr, pushing the pocket enough to leap into each other’s backs to celebrate what would have been a shared sack at Allegiant Stadium, were it not a pseudo-intrasquad scrimmage. Indeed, the Raiders are hoping — rather, expecting — the raw rush of Crosby and the technical tenacity of Ferrell to have many such reunions on opposing quarterbacks this season.
And why not? Crosby is coming off a breakout season in which the fourth-round draft pick had 10 sacks, a half-sack off the franchise rookie record set by Greg Townsend in 1983. And Ferrell, the surprise No. 4 overall draft pick in 2019 who flashed at times with 4 ½ sacks while often playing out of position on the interior and dealing with an illness that cost him 15 pounds, has added 20 pounds of muscle and looks more powerful.
The Raiders are so trusting of Crosby and Ferrell as foundational players on the edges — a mere two years after trading All-Pro Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears — that they ignored the position in the draft.
Adding hard-riding defensive line coach Rod Marinelli was perhaps the biggest move Las Vegas made this offseason when it comes to giving Crosby and Ferrell some help.
“Just because I had one good year, I don’t want a coach that taps me on the a– … ‘Yeah, good job, Maxx,'” Crosby said. “I don’t want that. That’s not me. That’s not my personality. I love the way he coaches, I can’t wait for the season to get here because he’s getting us better every single day. He’s pushing us to the limits. With [Ferelll], that’s like a brother to me. So, we’re working. We’re working every day, we’re trying to get better.”
Crosby said Marinelli has been working with them on effort — “He wants us to sprint to the ball like crazy,” Crosby said — and technique — “He wants us getting off the ball and reacting. He doesn’t want us thinking too much.”
Marinelli, meanwhile, was asked for his scouting reports on Crosby and Ferrell.
On Crosby: “I love his motor. That’s what I like about him. His effort, his motor. Now, it’s just little things in your game — get your pad level down, your hand quickness, the little details, and then whatever you’ve done in the past doesn’t matter. It’s next step, next step. Love the guy. He works. Now, we’ve got to keep building on what we’ve done. We’ve got to lay our foundation again. You just don’t finish the season here and be there. You got to go back and build a foundation. Good alignment, good stances. Well begun is half done.”
On Ferrell: “High-football character, right off the bat. That’s what I love. And he’s a guy that comes out and really works. He has great tempo about him every day and that’s what I ask, the tempo. And he’s got position flexibility and I love that with him. Now, it’s just the day-to-day grind. It’s learning to love being miserable. It’s learning to love the grind. And once we get that accomplished, we’ll have some good consistency.”
Sure, many see Ferrell as underperforming due to his draft slot last year. But if you got 10 sacks from Ferrell as the first-rounder and 4 ½ from Crosby in the fourth round, you would have taken that, yes?
Or is that just playing with numbers?
“I feel like the biggest thing is just cutting it loose,” Ferrell said. “Last year, kind of going through that process and learning about it, I feel like too much of me was thinking, trying to learn everything. But it’s a learning curve regardless of what people got to say. People don’t know what it takes to play or do what was asked of me last year.
“I feel like I have a strong purpose on this team and on this defense. At the end of the day, talk is talk. I got to go out there and do it. So, I’m ready to just go out there and show my stuff, show my tricks and have an impact for my team.”
Crosby spent the early part of camp on the COVID-19 list. And while he did not want to elaborate on it, he did acknowledge that he had an unusual training method while in quarantine at his house.
He worked on his hand technique by slapping a palm tree in his backyard.
“I had splinters in my hands because Marinelli, he was serious,” Crosby said. “I was stuck at home and I didn’t have bags or anything like that … so I was sending them videos of me every day of me working and literally doing hand work on a palm tree. I was messing my hands up and it was funny. They gave me so grief about it and made fun of me, but I was trying to get as much work in as I could because it wasn’t easy.”
And while Ferrell laughed while applauding his partner’s ingenuity, Crosby grew introspective discussing the yin to his yang.
“He got drafted high for a reason,” Crosby said of Ferrell. “But I feel like mentally, he wasn’t where he needed to be, and that’s just me being honest. I can tell him that, too, and he knows that. He let too many outside things come into play. I feel like he let coaching and certain stuff, overthinking stuff on the field.
“For me, I’m not the best in the classroom, but I just go. That’s what I try to do is try to help him with that aspect because Cle is a technician. He does everything perfect with drills. He makes sure he does everything right. For me, I’m not a guy who’s perfect in all those little drills and stuff, so where I lack, he picks up.”