James Hurst 'Invisible' In First Start


Rookie offensive tackle James Hurst is hitting the ice tub more often these days.

The undrafted rookie has been thrown into service as the Ravens' starting left tackle, replacing injured Eugene Monroe (knee).

And in his first crack at it Sunday against the Carolina Panthers, Hurst got a passing grade.

"He was kind of invisible," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "There were some things he can work on still, certainly, but he played well. There was no drop-off as he stepped in there."

Hurst got the Ravens' lowest offensive grade (-1.4), according to Pro Football Focus.

But that could be interpreted as essentially a positive grade considering it was the rookie's first regular-season action. Monroe, who was hindered by his injury, got lower grades than that in two of his three starts to begin the year.

Hurst didn't give up a sack, quarterback hit or hurry against the Panthers. Per PFF, he performed better in pass blocking than against the run.

"We watched the film and dissected it, so I know what I need to work on," Hurst said. "I feel like I got the job done most of the time. It's a building block for me."

Hurst said that the nerves were really only felt before the game started.

"I knew the line was rolling, so I didn't want to do anything to hinder that," he said. "Eugene is a great player, so I had a big task against me. I just wanted to make sure I didn't drop the ball."

Hurst had performed well in the preseason, but the question was whether that would transfer to the regular season, when he's not facing backups. Hurst said he noticed the jump in competitiveness.

"I think the wow moment was before the game for me. When I was running out for the player introductions, I was like, 'I'm about to start an NFL game. It's a big deal," Hurst said. "In the game, there was confidence. Knowing who's playing next to me (Kelechi Osemele is a pretty darn good football player) helps me a lot."

Hurst is expected to start several more games as Monroe recovers from minor knee surgery. The rookie will face another new test this week as he travels to loud Indianapolis for his first road game. Communication with his fellow linemen will be more challenging, which can lead to false starts.

"I don't feel like we had a real sense of concern [about Hurst]," Harbaugh said. "We had seen James practice, and I don't think any of us felt like there'd be any big drop-off."

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