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John Harbaugh assesses play of rookie linemen John Urschel, James Hurst

Ravens coach John Harbaugh talked about the play of rookie offensive linemen John Urschel and James Hurst.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh talked about the play of rookie offensive linemen John Urschel and James Hurst. (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun)

In the absence of two starting offensive linemen on the left side, the two rookies who stepped in for the Ravens -- fifth-round guard John Urschel and undrafted free-agent left tackle James Hurst -- drew mixed reviews from coach John Harbaugh on Monday.

Urschel, who has started two straight games with Kelechi Osemele battling back from a knee injury, has done a "great job," the coach said.

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"He's stepped in, and it's pretty hard to predict for a rookie to come in and play the way he's played at left guard," Harbaugh said.

The reserve guard from Penn State has performed in both facets of the game. The Ravens ran behind Urschel 12 times for 86 yards against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and did so a dozen times again for 44 yards Sunday, according to Pro Football Focus. The site's statistics say Urschel has only allowed one quarterback hurry in two games.

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"He deserves it, he works really hard, and he loves football," Harbaugh said. "He studies the game. He's getting what he's earned."

Hurst, who started his fourth game in place of Eugene Monroe, was attacked consistently by the Atlanta Falcons pass rush and flagged for holding three times.

"It was one guy, and it's not like I'm calling anybody out -- everybody can see who the penalties are on," Harbaugh said when asked about the season-high nine penalties. "Our offensive coaches and I have a great confidence in James Hurst.

"He's a young guy who's accomplished some pretty amazing things here as a rookie, so we've put him in some tough spots, probably in that game, and I guess we probably learned. But that doesn't mean we don't think he can't block play-action against a really good pass rusher."

Hurst played well in his debut against the Carolina Panthers in Week 4, then struggled in a homecoming game against the Indianapolis Colts when he allowed three sacks. He bounced back with a good showing against the Buccaneers before struggling again against Atlanta.

"We've got to do a better job of whatever we can do to keep ourselves out of that kind of situation as much as possible," Harbaugh said. "But you can't do that 100 percent [of the time]. Guys have got to block one-on-one, and he's done a lot of that, especially in the drop-back pass and in the run game."

Harbaugh did, however, praise Hurst for the "veteran move" of keeping the pass rusher off his quarterback.

As for the two starters, Osemele and Monroe, Harbaugh said he had no update on their respective knee injuries.

"We'll have our fingers crossed, and we'll just see if they can go and where the trainers feel like they're at," Harbaugh said.

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