Performance vs Expectations
While the Raiders struggled defensively in 2019 there were some silver linings and the defensive tackle group was one of them, especially compared to 2018. The 2018 season was historically bad in terms of pass rush but the Raiders were also terrible against the run, finishing 30th in the league.
In 2019 both the pass rush and rush defense saw major improvements as they nearly tripled their sack total from 13 to 36 and ended the year as the 8th ranked defense against the run. Some of that may have been due to how poor the pass defense was but the stats were backed up by the eye test as teams struggled to establish the run against Oakland.
So considering how poor the defense was in 2018 and how much the team improved against the run then the short answer is yes, the position group exceeded expectations. The position went from a non-factor to a strength of the team with their interior pass rush and ability to disrupt an opponent’s run game.
Hurst in particular was the star of the unit as he made several splash plays and maintained his sack production from his rookie season. The two highlights for Hurst were the game-ending sack of Bears QB Chase Daniel and his interception of Ryan Tannehill that should have been a touchdown with some better blocking.