NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock has been roaming the sidelines here at Oakland Raiders Training Camp the last few days, and I can’t help but feel like he’s specifically watching the trio of rookie defensive linemen.
Following the 2018 NFL Draft, Mayock offered high praise for the Raiders second and third-round picks P.J. Hall and Arden Key, dubbing them as immediate impact players if healthy. The third member of the group, defensive tackle Maurice Hurst, was ranked in Mayock’s top 50 prospect rankings list, and has shown immense upside throughout camp.
Ever since the trio arrived, Defensive Line Coach Mike Trgovac has had ample talent to work with, and while they showed flashes of their potential in shorts, they’ve continued to show promise with the pads on.
Following Friday’s practice, Hurst shared what it’s been like to work with his new coach.
“He’s just such a great coach,” he said. “He’s coached so many great players, and to learn from him and watch some of the players he’s coached is awesome. One of his things is shooting our hips, shooting our hands, bringing our feet, working pass rushes, working edges, I just don’t think there’s a better coach out there I think.”
With so many established veteran pass rushers on the outside, the trio will be fighting for playing time on the inside, but Hurst isn’t looking at that as a problem.
“A lot of people think when you’re competing for a spot you can’t work together, make each other better,” he said Friday. “But that’s the goal for us is to be the best players possible, and just go out there and play together, and as a unit.
“We’re going to rotate, we’re definitely going to have a group of guys set ready to go, and that’s the job right now — that’s the job in camp — is to make sure that you’re part of that rotation, and earn that spot on the D-line.”
For the duration of the 2018 season the trio will continue to be linked together, and if they can each impact the game individually this could be a dangerous unit. Not many people give the Raiders interior offensive line of Kelechi Osemele, Rodney Hudson, and Gabe Jackson a hard time, but watching the rooks go up against the vet has been entertaining. Even though they’re all teammates, Hurst says his counterparts aren’t ready to give away all their tricks just yet.
“They throw a few crumbs every now and then, they don’t want you to beat them every time, but they’ve been extremely helpful,” Hurst said with a grin. “I mean, there’s no better guards in the game besides those guys, so every day I go to work I get to play the best guys in the country, that’s only going to make you better every day. So, just working to beat those guys and compete with them, and great things will happen. It’s going to make the games a lot easier playing those three beasts inside."
Hurst makes an excellent point, the rookie defensive linemen have been blessed with not only gifted pass rushers around them who can mentor them, but they have the opportunity to train against one of the best — if not the best — interior offensive lines in the entire league.
The Raiders won’t practice against the Detroit Lions for another four days, but I’m anxious to watch Hall, Hurst, and Key go up against someone other than their own teammates, and I’m sure they feel the same.