Arden Key, Maurice Hurst See Benefits of Unexpected Preseason Workload

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Scott Bair

OAKLAND – Arden Key and Maurice Hurst weren't supposed to play most all of first preseason game.

The exhibition opener's generally reserved for those fighting to make the roster. Guys set to play significant snaps make cameos. Maybe.

Key and Hurst fall into the second category, yet there they were wrapping up Saturday's 14-3 victory over the L.A. Rams at Oakland Coliseum.

Heavy workloads were required due to a perfect storm of veterans rendered inactive before the kickoff and in-game injuries that left the Raiders short-handed.

"We were running out of players," Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said. "We have Eddie Vanderdoes, Gabe Wright, P.J. Hall out; we have a number of guys in the training room. We have some guys, like Justin Ellis, we didn't want playing today. …We were limited at defensive tackle. …That's the preseason. It's a gut check."

The Raiders were limited off the edge as well, after rookie Maxx Crosby broke his hand. The fourth-round draft pick tweeted that he would be fine after the game, but he didn't play much as the game wore along.

The Raiders were fortunate that both Key and Hurst came away from the experience healthy. They need these guys when the games actually count.

Key will be a vital situational pass rusher, though he has made strides in run defense heading into his second season.

Hurst will rush inside in the sub package, and has recently lined up next to Johnathan Hankins in the base defense. He'll rotate with Justin Ellis in that grouping.

Hurst and Key both found the silver lining of playing deep into Saturday night, essentially taking a regular-season workload in a game that doesn't mean anything.

Key was all smiles after recording three tackles, including a beautifully executed sack and two quarterback hits. He left another sack unfinished, but looked more powerful and confident than his rookie year.

"I found a good rhythm out there," Key said. "I was able to reacclimatize myself to the Coliseum dirt. That wasn't the plan for me to play that long, but I had to do it. I filled in, and I feel like it all went well."

Hurst was mentally prepared for a longer night, considering the volume of defensive tackles sitting out. He ended up with two tackles, including one for a loss.

"We were ready to play the whole game, regardless of whether they thought we were going to play a half or not," Hurst said. "All the work helps you get better. It puts you in a game situation. It's good practice and extra reps for us."

The Raiders defense gave up three points all night, though the Rams didn't play anyone of consequence in this exhibition. The Raiders defense performed well most of the time, and looked for little indicators that they were able to take keys from camp and apply it in the game.

"There's still a lot of room for improvement," Hurst said. "We're just getting our feet wet, getting out there and trying to do our techniques as best we can. We're just going to keep getting better as the games go on."

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