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Texas DT relishes thought of playing next to Maxx Crosby

Updated February 28, 2024 - 6:55 pm

INDIANAPOLIS — If the Raiders stay put with the 13th pick in the NFL draft, a case could be made for taking an interior defensive lineman to play alongside Maxx Crosby.

Texas defensive tackle Byron Murphy II, arguably the best player at his position in the draft, is willing to be that guy.

“Playing next to a guy like Maxx Crosby would be crazy,” Murphy said Wednesday from the NFL scouting combine. “I’ve never played with a guy like that, and he would make my job a lot easier.”

That could be a double-edged proposition. Murphy was a force with the Longhorns, with his peak year occurring last season when he was ranked first in the country among defensive tackles, per Pro Football Focus. With an ability to split double teams and cause disruption behind the line of scrimmage as a run defender and pass rusher, Murphy projects as an ideal interior complement to Crosby’s perimeter dominance.

The Raiders cobbled together an effective defensive tackle room last season, but they have lacked a true difference-maker for years. Coupled with the potential holes caused by pending free agents Bilal Nichols, Adam Butler and John Jenkins, there is a need at the position.

Murphy, projected to be selected from 12th to 20th, fits that need as an interior disruptor. On Wednesday, Raiders coach Antonio Pierce discussed landing an inside force to supplement Crosby, emerging defensive end Malcolm Koonce and second-year defensive lineman Tyree Wilson. Doing so, he believes, would enhance the entire group.

Murphy also brings the necessary demeanor, as he alluded to Wednesday.

“First, I’ll say just having the mindset of just being, ‘Can’t be stopped, won’t be stopped,’” Murphy said. “And doing my best to try to be disruptive at all times. Just trying to get after the quarterback, just rushing at all times every play.”

Murphy’s dominance resulted in constant double teams.

He faced multiple blockers on 251 of his 438 snaps last season, but still had six sacks and 36 quarterback hurries.

Occupying multiple blockers has a ripple effect on the defense, as it frees fellow linemen and linebackers to make plays. But Murphy takes it a step further by using his speed and power to beat double teams and make plays behind the line of scrimmage.

It defeats the purpose of double-teaming him. And he takes great pride in that.

“That’s one of the best feelings in the world,” Murphy said. “Obviously, you’re doing your job, but to split a double team and get a (tackle for loss), that’s pretty hard to do. That’s hard work and a lot of guys can’t do that.”

Hence, the comparisons to Rams star Aaron Donald. The 6-foot-1-inch, 308-pound Murphy is almost identical in build to the All-Pro defensive tackle. He grew up watching Donald, among others of similar build.

“I watch AD a lot,” Murphy said. “Also guys like Ed Oliver, Kenny Clark, guys like that. (Daron) Payne for the Commanders. I try to model my game after them guys. I just like the way they play, how disruptive, and also their violence.”

Contact Vincent Bonsignore at vbonsignore@reviewjournal.com. Follow @VinnyBonsignore on X.

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