One of the league’s worst defensive units from a season ago could use all the help it can get, especially in the form of young talent up front.
It was certainly a surprise when the news crossed the wires on Thursday. The Las Vegas Raiders, a team that has had its issues stopping opponents for any number of years and allowed the third-most points in the league in 2020, parted ways with a pair of young defensive linemen in Maurice Hurst and Arden Key.
The former is the player that figures to generate the most interest around the league over the next few days. A fifth-round draft choice by the Silver and Black who slipped in the draft because of a medical issue (see the San Diego Union-Tribune), he appeared in 40 games for Jon Gruden’s team the past three seasons and totaled a combined 76 tackles, eight sacks, two fumble recoveries and seven passes defensed. He was coming off a season in which he played in a career-low 11 games and made just three starts.
Cowboys need to sign Maurice Hurst while they still can
So why would the Dallas Cowboys best suit his talents?
The team has a new defensive coordinator in Dan Quinn, late the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons. He’s already employed a few of his former players in safeties Keanu Neal and Damontae Kazee – the former making the switch to weakside linebacker. Free agency brings a little depth at defensive end in Carlos Watkins and Brent Urban. But keep in mind that only the Houston Texans gave up more yards per game on the ground than the Cowboys (158.8 average). Dallas gave up 54 offensive touchdowns in 16 games, including 20 on the ground.
So can a member of the league’s 25th-ranked defense from a season ago help a unit that finished 23rd in the NFL in total yards per game allowed? Hurst was a solid performer for the Silver and Black in his three seasons with the club and certainly was a bright spot. He is the 19th-ranked interior defender according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required) and yet here he is available. Hurst would indeed be a quality addition to Quinn’s new-look defensive unit.