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TOPIC: P.J. Hall and Maurice Hurst wasted little time

P.J. Hall and Maurice Hurst wasted little time 1 week 3 days ago #1305

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NAPA Kyler Murray Jersey , Calif. (AP) — providing the inside pass rush that Oakland Raiders coach Jon Gruden wanted when he used two draft picks on the defensive tackles.Hall delivered on his first snap as a pro, bringing down Detroit’s Matt Cassel in the exhibition opener. Hurst got pressure twice with one of those leading to Hall deflecting a pass by Cassel.That’s an ingredient that has been sorely missing in Oakland for years and will go a long way toward upgrading a defense that hopes to be much improved in the first year under Gruden and coordinator Paul Guenther.“I was pleased with it,” Gruden said Monday. “I think it’s an area that we’ve gone out to try to improve and we have a long way to go. But, there were some good signs.”The Raiders drafted Hall in the second round after he recorded 42 sacks in his college career at FCS-level Sam Houston State. Oakland then was able to add another potential impact rusher in the fifth round when Hurst fell from a projected first-round pick because of a heart issue that led him to be sent home from the combine.Hurst was one of the most productive defensive players in the country last season at Michigan. He had 5½ sacks as an interior rusher and led all nose tackles and defensive tackles with 49 total quarterback pressures, according to Pro Football Focus.Hurst has had no health issues since being drafted and delivered just what the Raiders expected.“He’s going to continue to get better,” Gruden said. “I think going up against (Kelechi) Osemele and Gabe Jackson and (Rodney) Hudson all camp has made him better. It’s made him stronger. It’s made him play with better technique and leverage. He still has a ways to go but he and P.J. Hall both give us an element that we need here.”The Raiders have the second-fewest sacks in the NFL the past two seasons with just 56 — one more than the last-place New York Jets. Nearly two-thirds of those sacks have come from Khalil Mack (21 1/2) and Bruce Irvin (15), as the edge players have gotten almost no help from the inside rushers.Oakland had just 1 1/2 sacks last year from players playing inside full-time, making the performance in the preseason opener so encouraging.Hall’s sack came on the opening drive when Cassel was forced to step up in the pocket because of outside pressure by Irvin and Fadol Brown. Hall figures more of those opportunities will come, especially once Mack ends his holdout and rejoins the team.“I definitely feel that will help a lot,” he said. “He’s a great edge rusher. He will make the quarterbacks step up in the pocket so I need to make sure I get a good interior rush.”The interior rush is a key part of Guenther’s defense. He had one of the best in the game at it during his time in Cincinnati when Geno Atkins anchored the Bengals defense.Hurst said he has tried to model his game after Atkins and embraces the challenge of trying to fill that role in Oakland.“Definitely gets me amped up,” he said. “The Bengals, their best player was their 3-technique http://www.arizonacardinalsteamonline.com/byron-murphy-jersey , so that’s the focal point of their defense and that’s what Coach Guenther is used to getting. That’s what he’s got his whole time in the NFL. He drafted Geno, so I think it says something to him for drafting me and P.J. I think he definitely expects a lot from us and expects us to fill that role that he had while he was with the Bengals.”NOTES: CB Gareon Conley returned to practice for the first time since injuring his hip on the first day of training camp. …CB Daryl Worley left practice after colliding with teammate Rashaan Melvin.
SCOREBOARD

Sunday, Jan. 7

Buffalo at Jacksonville, 1:05 p.m. EST. The Bills (9-7) are making their first playoff appearance since 1999, ending a 17-year absence that was the longest for any team in the four major North American sports leagues. The Jaguars (10-6) are in the postseason for the first time since the 2007 season, and won their first division title since 1999. They’re coached by Doug Marrone, who was Buffalo’s head coach from 2013-14.



Carolina at New Orleans, 4:40 p.m. EST. Two familiar foes cap wild-card weekend as Cam Newton’s Panthers (11-5) take on Drew Brees’ Saints (11-5) for the third time this season. New Orleans won the previous two meetings, with the victories bookending an 8-1 stretch for the Saints en route to the NFC South title. The Panthers will have tight end Greg Olsen, who missed the earlier matchups because of a foot injury.



STARS

Passing

– Marcus Mariota, Titans, led three second-half touchdown drives Andy Isabella Jersey , incredibly throwing one of his TD passes to himself, and the Titans rallied from a 21-3 deficit to beat the Kansas City Chiefs 22-21 for their first playoff win in 14 years.

– Matt Ryan, Falcons, went 21 of 30 for 218 yards and a TD to lead Atlanta past the Los Angeles Rams 26-13.



Rushing

– Derrick Henry, Titans, had a career-high 156 yards rushing and scored a 35-yard touchdown run.

– Devonta Freeman, Falcons, ran for 66 yards and a TD on 18 carries.



Receiving

– Julio Jones, Falcons, had nine catches for 94 yards and a touchdown.

– Tyreek Hill, Chiefs, caught seven passes for a game-high 87 yards.

– Robert Woods Clelin Ferrell Jersey , Rams, had 142 yards on nine receptions.

– Delanie Walker, Titans, had six receptions for 74 yards.



Special Teams

– Matt Bryant, Falcons, booted four field goals – from 29, 51, 25 and 54 yards.

– Ryan Succop, Titans, kicked a 49-yard field goal.



Defense

– Brian Orakpo, Titans, had 1 1/2 sacks.

– Deion Jones Josh Oliver Jersey , Falcons had 10 overall tackles and a pass-defensed.



STREAKS & STATS

With a 22-21 loss to Tennessee, the Kansas City Chiefs haven’t won a home playoff game since January 1994. … Atlanta’s 26-13 win over the Los Angeles Rams gave the Falcons playoff victories in consecutive seasons for the first time in franchise history. … Atlanta won a road playoff game for the first time in 5,481 days. The Falcons’ last postseason road victory came in the 2002 playoffs, when Michael Vick’s Falcons defeated Brett Favre’s Green Bay Packers. … Tennessee won a playoff game for the first time in 5,117 days, beating Kansas City 22-21. The Titans’ last playoff win came on Jan. 3, 2004, when Tennessee topped Baltimore.



MILESTONES

Los Angeles’ Cooper Kupp became the first Rams rookie to catch a touchdown pass in the playoffs since Torry Holt in the 2000 Super Bowl. … Derrick Henry became the third player in Titans history to have 100 or more yards rushing in a playoff game, joining Eddie George (twice) and Earl Campbell. … Alex Smith’s two TD passes against Tennessee put him past Len Dawson (seven) for the most in Chiefs playoff history with nine.



COMEBACK KIDS

Tennessee became the third road team to rally from at least 18 points down to win a playoff game in NFL history. The Titans trailed Kansas City 21-3 at halftime before storming back in the second half to win 22-21. Dallas came back from 21-3 in the first half to beat San Francisco 30-28 in December 1972, and Detroit came back from 27-7 in the second half to beat San Francisco in December 1957.



FROM ME TO … ME

Marcus Mariota capped a 91-yard TD drive to start the second half of Tennessee’s 22-21 win at Kansas City in bizarre fashion: He threw a TD pass to himself. His throw to the end zone was batted right back at him by Darrelle Revis, and Mariota hauled it in and dived for the goal line. It was the first time a player has thrown a TD pass to himself in the playoffs, and the first time in any game since the Vikings’ Brad Johnson during the 1997 season.



PARTY POOPERS

Atlanta’s 26-13 victory ruined a celebratory night for the Los Angeles Rams http://www.jacksonvillejaguarsteamonline.com/quincy-williams-ii-jersey , who rebounded from a rough homecoming season in 2016 with an outstanding debut year under 31-year-old Sean McVay, the youngest head coach to reach the playoffs in NFL history. A raucous crowd of 74,300 packed the Coliseum on a crisp evening for the first NFL playoff game in the nation’s second-largest city since early 1994. Los Angeles went 21 years without pro football before the Rams returned last season, and the franchise emphatically ended a 13-year streak of non-winning seasons this fall with an inspiring run to the Rams’ first division title since 2003.



COOP’S WHOOPS

Pharoh Cooper is headed to the Pro Bowl after his outstanding regular season as a kick returner, but the second-year pro’s misadventures in his playoff debut cost the Los Angeles Rams dearly. He muffed a punt that bounced off teammate Blake Countess in the first quarter, and Matt Bryant subsequently hit the Falcons’ first field goal. After Bryant’s second field goal later in the quarter, Cooper got stripped by Damontae Kazee during a kickoff return at the Rams 32, and the Falcons drove for a TD.



SIDELINED

Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce sustained a concussion on a wick
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