Maurice Hurst had a good rookie season for the Raiders, but defensive coordinator Paul Guenther believes fans will see an even better player in 2019.
During organized team activities (OTAs) this week, Guenther told reporters the defensive tackle already appears to be operating at a higher level.
"(Hurst) has looked stronger out there," said Guenther. "He’s moving a lot better. He was a little bit limited earlier in OTAs, but he’s back out there playing at a high level."
Hurst had 10 starts as a rookie in 2018 and played 13 games overall, with 31 combined tackles, four sacks, three tackles for loss and three quarterback hits.
Hurst provided some badly needed pressure up the middle for a team that was dead last – by a long margin – in quarterback sacks in 2018, with just 13.
The analytic website Pro Football Focus several times cited Hurst for his outstanding play as a rookie.
Now Hurst will get pass-rush help from the outside in rookies Clelin Ferrell and Maxx Crosby. Hurst believes the defensive front with the addition of talent will make a huge difference for the unit in 2019, and he wants to make a big improvement, too. The Raiders should be deeper at both end and defensive tackle, where Hurst will get snaps along with P.J. Hall, Justin Ellis and Eddie Vanderdoes (who missed all of 2018).
"That’s on me to make the big leap, and on my teammates, and I think if one of us does really well, it helps the whole as a group. Just keeping guys fresh, keeping guys rolling through, keeping guys making plays, I think as a whole, all of our numbers will go up and all of us will be more productive than we were last season."
Recently, Oakland defensive line coach Brenston Buckner said the trial-by-fire rookie seasons of Hurst and Hall in 2018 – when Vanderdoes and Ellis were mostly absent – will pay off for them in their second seasons.
"You had young guys who had to learn on the job last year, which is one of the hardest things to do," said Buckner. "You’re learning from your mistakes and trying to keep your head up high while you’re struggling. That’s going to help them in the long run."