Maurice Hurst is never one to mince words.
Dating back to him answering the myriad of questions regarding his heart ailment — which caused him to drop to the fifth round of the 2018 NFL Draft — the current Oakland Raider and former Michigan Wolverine is straight and to the point.
And when broached with the question regarding the Raiders defensive line’s performance last season, Hurst again didn’t flinch.
“Yeah, I’m definitely harsh on myself. Definitely wasn’t good enough by any standard,” Hurst began. “We weren’t stopping the run, weren’t generating any pass rush so, for me, that was a failed season.”
From the outside looking in, Hurst had a good rookie year. The defensive tackle racked up 31 total tackles, four sacks, a forced fumble and swatted down three passes. (Mind you, four of those QB take downs were part of the Raiders pathetic 13 sack total last season.)
Just don’t go patting Hurst on the back for his rookie campaign.
“It was great to get a lot of experience on the field and some time to go against NFL opponents, but overall, it was a failed season,” Hurst said. “And trying to make sure I remember that and let that fuel me going forward.”
Like his keen ability to be a straight shooter, the Raiders need Hurst to continuously evolve going forward. The shortest route between two points is straight ahead and Oakland needs Hurst to become a consistent interior wrecker.
There were brilliant glimpses of it last year. Hurst’s sudden burst and engulfing sack of then-Arizona Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen chief among them.
Hurst is apt to embrace the task of improving. Especially now that he’s got film to pour over.
“It’s great, I can go back now and the Rams are coming up and I can go back and watch Week 1 from last year,” Hurst said. “See what they’re doing to me. And she where I can improve. See if my hands or feet were bad and what kind of schemes they were running on me. And I know about their players now. You grow so much from the first year to second year and now you understand the game more.
“I’ve already watched (the film) a few times and there was definitely that moment of ‘What was I doing?’. But you know, there’s always a little bit of good in there. But it’s just a learning experience.”
It’s imperative the Raiders’ opposition this season learn Hurst is a must-account-for defender. The 6-foot-1, 291-pound 24-year-old is an integral piece of the defensive line, one that can fuel success. Along with 2018 draftees — second-rounder PJ Hall and third-rounder Arden Key — the group needs to make the critical Year 2 leap. Like Hurst, Hall came in with a collegiate pedigree steep with interior pass rush and run stopping chops. The pair are similar in size and age, with Hall having the better athletic testing numbers.
“Yeah, it’s our time right now. Everyone talks about the jump from Year 1 to Year 2,” Hurst said. “So you know, staying true and coming out here and working. That’s the biggest thing, to grow and grind in the offseason. We did good things, but there’s a lot we can do better.”