The Las Vegas Raiders made some moves on Thursday, and waiving defensive tackle Maurice Hurst was one move that was a mistake.
The Las Vegas Raiders made some moves today to free up cap space waiving former 3rd round draft pick Arden Key, 5th round pick Maurice Hurst, and reserve QB Kyle Sloter per the team.
The biggest surprise is perhaps the release of Maurice Hurst who showed promise in flashes during his first three years with the team. Hurst was drafted out of Michigan when a congenital heart problem was discovered by doctors at the NFL scouting combine, his stock fell. When the Raiders took him in the 5th round it was widely perceived as a massive steal given many considered the defensive tackle a first-round talent.
Hurst never quite played up to that billing however he was an effective pass-rushing interior lineman when he was healthy. In his rookie season as a Raider Hurst logged four sacks and three TFLs while playing 46% of the snaps on defense.
His playing time saw an increase in 2019 and he put up comparable numbers from his rookie season; notching 3.5 sacks, 4 TFLs, and an interception that he returned for 55 yards.
However, the biggest knock on Hurst coming into 2020 was his inability to stop the run. Frequently pushed off the line of scrimmage as a run defender, Hurst showed a concerning lack of strength to take on double teams and would routinely be pushed back to the second level.
Hurst got stronger ahead of 2020 and was making a much bigger impact than his stats would suggest in the first 4 games of the season. However, he missed the Kansas City game due to COVID-19 protocols and was inactive due to injury for 4 additional games throughout the remainder of the season. The fast start that the young defender got off to start 2020 came to a screeching halt and he never looked impact down the final stretch of the season.
With all the interior defensive linemen signed to the Raiders this off-season (re-signed David Irving and Jonathan Hankins, added Solomon Thomas, Quinton Jefferson, Darius Philon, and Matt Dickerson) there was a huge backlog at the 3 technique position in Gus Bradley’s scheme.
Raiders made a mistake in releasing Hurst
This writer figured Hurst would at least get a shot to fight for his spot on the depth chart during OTAs (if there are any) and training camp. However many acknowledged that the acquisitions at defensive tackle were writing on the wall that Maurice Hurst was finished in Las Vegas.
Ironically, Gus Bradley’s single-gap penetrating style of defense was more of a scheme fit for Hurst’s talents than the style of defense Paul Guenther had employed over Hurst’s first 3 seasons in the NFL. There are perhaps not many landing spots that could be more ideally suited for Hurst’s ability to get into the backfield with leverage and quickness.
Head Coach Jon Gruden is famous for souring on players who miss extended time due to injury. In Maurice Hurst’s case, availability wasn’t his best ability.
The Raiders also parted ways with Arden Key who famously couldn’t put on weight during his first 3 seasons in the NFL and despite starting 10 games as a rookie, didn’t start a single game after Maxx Crosby and Clelin Ferrell were drafted in 2019. Key will likely be most remembered for grabbing Ryan Fitzpatrick’s facemask at the end of the Dolphins game in 2020 that put Miami into field goal range to win the game, crushing the Raiders’ playoff chances once and for all.
Quarterback Kyle Sloter was also released, a camp body that was likely added in the event a deal couldn’t have been worked out with Marcus Mariota this off-season, Sloter has never thrown an NFL pass despite bouncing around between the Broncos, Vikings, Cardinals, Lions, and Bears since he entered the league as an undrafted free agent in 2017.