Why Aren’t Raiders Using DT Maurice Hurst?

Why aren’t the Las Vegas Raiders using defensive tackle Maurice Hurst more? Does head coach Jon Gruden have something against the former Michigan Wolverine?

There are definitely some possibilities as far as the first question goes but regarding the second question, it’s doubtful Gruden has an issue with Hurst. One of the biggest reasons for the defensive tackle’s decline in snaps was the offseason addition of Maliek Collins. It might seem like a lifetime ago but at one point, the former Dallas Cowboy was one of the most prized free-agent signings.

Well, fast forward to Week 13 of the NFL season and it hasn’t been pretty for Collins. The defensive tackle grades out terribly across the board according to Pro Football Focus. He holds a 33.3 overall grade and 29.4 on run defense in 2020. Even worse is the fact Collins is the lowest graded interior defender out of 130 players.

By looking at this putrid production you would think Gruden and defensive coordinator Paul Guenther would pull plug the on Collins. Instead, Hurst saw only 16 snaps versus the Atlanta Falcons, the lowest of any game this season. So is there anything else at play?

Related: Raiders Needed Wake Up Call Ahead of Week 13 Matchup

Maybe the Raiders are just being precautious with Hurst?

The thing with Hurst has been his health, we all know fans want him out on the field. But let’s not forget he has been dealing with a heart condition since before he was drafted by the Raiders. His COVID-19 diagnosis made this fact even scarier knowing what we know about the virus.

It’s entirely plausible that Gruden and the coaching staff has been limiting his snaps to keep him fresh, and might not be as effective if he plays more. It’s not a proven fact but if you look at his snap counts this year, there could be a correlation. When Hurst goes over 30 snaps his productivity drops off somewhat. Take a look:

  • Week 1: 20 snaps, 3 combined tackles, half a sack
  • Week 2: 22 snaps, 2 combined tackles, 2 QB hits
  • Week 3: 30 snaps, 6 combined tackles, 1 tackle for a loss

Now, look at Weeks 4 and 7. Keeping in mind he missed time due to Covid, it paints a slightly different picture. In those two games, he had a total of 66 snaps where he totaled two combined tackles, one hit, and one pass defensed. It’s frustrating for fans who want to see more of Hurst and understandably so given how poorly Collins has played. However, it seems the Raiders coaching is still tinkering with how to use Hurst best moving forward.

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*Top Photo: Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

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