With multiple stars and starters getting the day off Saturday for both teams, it was hard to judge the significance – if any – of the action on the field between the Raiders and Rams in the summer’s second exhibition matchup.
The Rams won the game 19-15 at the Los Angeles Coliseum, dropping the Raiders to 1-1 this summer under returning head coach Jon Gruden.
Among the highlights were undrafted running back Chris Warren again having a strong outing, with 18 carries for 110 yards – including a 23-yard burst – and a touchdown, solid play from backup quarterback EJ Manuel (10-of-16, 89 yards, one TD) and second year middle linebacker Marquel Lee, who had an interception to go with five tackles.
But rookie defensive tackle Maurice Hurst – who some believe may be one of the steals of this year’s draft – continued his strong play with his first NFL sack and two solo tackles.
Hurst, who was projected by some as the best defensive tackle going into the draft, was nabbed in the fifth round by Oakland (which traded up to get him on the draft’s third day) after a heart condition discovered during the NFL combine caused most teams to erase him from their draft boards. Yet Hurst – who was later cleared by doctors to play – has been outstanding since coming to the Raiders and is projected to be a starter on the Raiders’ interior. The 6-foot-1, 291-pounder could be an elite pass rusher from the inside and, along with fellow rookie P.J. Hall, give the Raiders defense a huge boost in what was a soft spot in the lineup in 2017.
On Saturday, Hurst bulled his way up the middle – steadily pushing center Aaron Neary back into the pocket – from where he was able to reach out and tackle quarterback Brandon Allen. The sack, in the third quarter on a second-and-10 play, produced an 8-yard losss for the Rams and eventually forced a punt.
After playing last week in Game 1 vs. the Detroit Lions and having a solid training camp, Hurst drew praise from Gruden.
"Love Hurst," Gruden told the Detroit Free Press. "He’s been well coached at Michigan. He’s polished. He’s got a great motor. That’s why we traded up to get him. He’s exactly what we thought he was."
Hurst said last week he uses his fall in the draft as motivation.
"Every day that I come out here you always have something to prove whenever you get on the field," he said.
On Saturday vs. the Rams, Hurst made his point again in a big way.
The Raiders will next play Friday night against the Packers at O.co Coliseum.