Rookies John Urschel, James Hurst Hold Down Left Side


The breakout performance by the Ravens offense Sunday was impressive enough on its own.

Making it even more eye-popping was that the Ravens did it without their key starters along the offensive line. Starting left tackle Eugene Monroe and left guard Kelechi Osemele were both sidelined Sunday because of knee injuries, and the Ravens turned to a pair of rookies to fill their shoes.

Fifth-round pick John Urschel played the first game of his career at left guard, and undrafted rookie James Hurst made his third-straight start at left tackle.

Their inexperience didn't show, as they played part in a historically dominating performance where the Ravens put up 38 points in the first half and cruised to a 48-17 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"To play the way they did against a really good front says so much," Head Coach John Harbaugh said.

The offense had a stellar overall showing, and a strong performance from the line was part of the reason. The group gave quarterback Joe Flacco time to throw – he was never sacked or even hit – and he used that time to carve up Tampa's secondary.

"I think those guys obviously played really well," Flacco said. "As a unit we played really well and I got to feel good about how those guys did. We have two guys who are backups and played in the game and we were able to operate well still, it's nice to see that."

The line also opened up holes in the running game, as running back Justin Forsett ran for 111 yards on 14 carries.

"The offensive line did a heck of a job, and we got it today," Forsett said. "All the guys up front just stepped up early. We wanted to start fast and we got that done."

Urschel and Hurst both filled in for players who are pillars of the Ravens offense, but the unit gave no indication that it was without two key leaders.

The Ravens tried to give Osemele a chance to play, as he went through drills on the field during pre-game warmups. He was clearly hobbled, and the Ravens instead decided to give Urschel the starting nod. It was the first game that Urschel has even been active this year.

"It was an honor to be able to start today," Urschel said. "First start in the NFL. It means a lot that the coaches have that faith in me and just the fact that the other offensive linemen, the other guys on the team took care of me and that we were able to get things going quickly. It was a good start."

Hurst and Urschel have both drawn praise from the coaching staff since arriving in Baltimore this spring. They both have good size, and they've quickly picked up the system from Offensive Line Coach Juan Castillo.

"They're both very smart and both good athletes," Harbaugh said. "When you have players that are smart and you have a coach coaching your group who's as good a trainer of techniques that you're ever going to see in football, you're in a unique position. So those guys are coachable, they understand what he's teaching them, and they take it one practice to the next."

The emergence and development of the young offensive linemen has given the Ravens plenty of depth in the trenches where players tend to get banged up over the course of the season. Hurst and Urschel have both shown they're able to make the jump to the NFL and they're ready to fill in for as long as needed.

"I feel like I did well. I feel like I had a solid performance," Urschel said. "There are obviously things that I need to improve upon. Biggest thing is just go back and look at the film, see what I did well, keep doing that well, see what I didn't do so well and work to improve on that."

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