Hurst Needs Big Bounce-Back Season
by Tom LaMarre
Maurice Hurst was projected as a potential first-round selection in the 2018 NFL Draft coming out of Michigan, but a heart condition that prevented him from performing in the NFL Combine dropped him in the Raiders’ lap in round five, No. 140 overall.
The 6-1, 291-pound Hurst had an impressive rookie season, but slipped a bit last year until coming on late and faces a critical season in the Silver and Black’s first year in Las Vegas.
“I just try to be a playmaker, and that’s sort of what I go by,” Hurst said last season. “That’s my motto, that’s who I am as a person. I try to be a playmaker, someone who’s going to affect games.
“As long as I do that, then I’m happy with my play. That’s my main emphasis. Not to be specifically good in one area, but to be specifically good in all areas. To change games and to be that guy that is able to be strong and be able to penetrate and be able to affect quarterbacks.
“It means everything to be a Raider.”
To remain one, Hurst must play the way he did as a consensus All-American in 2017 at Michigan and as a rookie with the Raiders, something he did only in the last half of the 2019 season.
In 2018, Hurst made 31 tackles, including 26 solo, three tackles for losses, forced a fumble, had three passes defensed and led the Raiders with four sacks while starting 10 of the 13 games in which he played.
However, last year he started only four games while playing in all 16. Hurst made only 18 tackles, 11 solo, and he had 3½ sacks plus seven tackles for losses and eight quarterback hits. Two of his sacks came against Chase Daniel of the Chicago Bears in a Raiders’ 24-21 victory in London.
Still, the season was not exactly what he and the Raiders expected.
However, Hurst did his best work starting in the ninth week of the season, as Pro Football Focus ranked Hurst eighth in the NFL over the last half of the season with an 82.7 grade, and an 83.1 pass-rushing grade, which ranked fourth.
And he found the football.
In Week 9 against the Detroit Lions, Hurst recovered a fumble by quarterback Matthew Stafford that helped the Raiders to a 31–24 victory.
Against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 11, Hurst recovered a fumble by quarterback Ryan Finley as the Raiders pulled out a 17–10 victory.
And in Week 14 against the Tennessee Titans, Hurst made the first interception of his pro career on a throw by Ryan Tannehill and returned it 55 yards, but the Raiders lost, 42-21.
Perhaps his strong play went unnoticed because the Raiders lost five of their last six games to finish 7-9 to miss the playoffs.
What it all means is that Hurst and the Raiders both need fast starts this season.