James Hurst Back In The Starting Spotlight

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James Hurst prepared all offseason as if he could be the starter.

Then, on the first drive of the 2015 season, he was right back in the saddle.

With Eugene Monroe dealing with the effects of a concussion sustained in Denver and sitting out this week of practice, it appears Hurst is in line to start again Sunday against the Raiders.

"Being a backup guy, you never know when that opportunity is going to come," Hurst said. "It happened on the first drive. That's better than maybe happening on the last drive of the game. It was what it was. A guy went down and I've got to be ready to go in and play well."

This is nothing new for Hurst. Last season as an undrafted rookie, he stepped in and started seven games at left tackle, including two in the playoffs. It's quite rare to have an undrafted rookie at a prominent position, particularly in such big games.

Hurst had an up and down rookie season. He held his own, which is quite admirable, but he wants to do more than that this season.

"This is a similar situation, outside of the fact that this isn't my rookie year," Hurst said. "You expect to see a lot of improvement from Year 1 to Year 2 and that's what I expect from myself.

"Sunday wasn't my best game and I'm disappointed in that. Things like that you can look at and learn a lot from it. That's what I'm going to do and what I've been doing this week in practice and in the film room."

Hurst struggled against the Broncos' talented pass-rush duo of DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller. Hurst had a negative-9.1 rating from Pro Football Focus. Right tackle Rick Wagner got a negative-10.4 rating.

The Ravens have confidence in Hurst, however. He is their only true backup offensive tackle.

"I think James is a very good player," Offensive Coordinator Marc Trestman said. "I watched him play last year against New England in a [divisional] championship game, so he has had the experience. He has played in the big games. We faced two really good players last week; our guys recognize that."

Not a whole lot will change this week. The Raiders have a fearsome trio of pass rushers with defensive ends Khalil Mack and Justin Tuck, and recently signed Aldon Smith coming off the bench. Smith had 19.5 sacks in 2012 and can still get after quarterbacks.

If the Ravens want their offense to have a big rebound from Week 1, Hurst and the offensive tackles need to play better in Oakland. "They're great players, just like last week," Hurst said. "I know I've got to bring it every play. It's part of the NFL, going against guys like that. That's what we get paid to do."

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