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Maurice Hurst: Cleveland’s unsung hero on defense

NFL free agency brought in a player who seems to have returned to the player he was before his biceps injury

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Washington Commanders v Cleveland Browns Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

The Cleveland Browns had one of the best offseasons in the league via NFL free agency, especially on the defensive side of the ball. The likes of Dalvin Tomlinson alongside Juan Thornhill, Za’Darius Smith (trade acquisition), and Ogbo Okoronkwo have gotten most of the spotlight, but Maurice Hurst has quietly been a star as well.

He’s played a fairly large role so far for this defense as a gap-shooting 3-technique, as well as lining up at 1-technique in obvious passing-down situations.

He’s been a wrecking ball inside when paired with Myles Garrett or Za’Darius Smith in Cleveland’s version of their “Nascar” or “Cheetah” package. He’s the type of player who may not get tons of sacks, but he’s consistently going to alter plays in the backfield and pressure the quarterback.

2023 Statistics

Tackles: 10

TFL: 1

Sacks: 0.5

PFF Grade: 88.5 (7th highest amongst NFL Defensive Tackles)

Snaps: 107 (39%)

The Browns signed Hurst because of Jim Schwartz’s ability to amplify the talent of his defensive line unit. He has utilized the defensive tackle perfectly so far, especially on passing downs. Schwartz has done a great job of finding ways to get Hurst in 1-on-1 blocking situations with offensive linemen, which usually results in a “plus” matchup for the defense.

Hurst is the epitome of a technician when it comes to both hand placement and hand fighting, as well as the synchronization of his upper and lower body upon contact. This is an important trait because it allows him to stack different rush moves because his feet and lower body are always moving.

His snatch/swim move has been extremely difficult for offensive linemen to counter, due to his outstanding hand placement on the breastplate or armpit. He’s routinely able to control the blocker upon initial contact which allows him to dictate the situation despite him being “only” 290 pounds.

As long as “Big Mo” stays healthy for Cleveland, he’s going to continue to be an integral piece in the NFL’s top-ranked defensive unit going forward.

How surprised are you at Hurst’s success with the Browns?