When coach John Harbaugh said earlier in the week that the Ravens needed their offensive tackles to play better, it was affirmation of something James Hurst already knew.
Hurst replaced Eugene Monroe at left tackle early in last Sunday's loss to the Denver Broncos and he struggled to block DeMarcus Ware, allowing seven quarterback pressures, according to Pro Football Focus. Ravens right tackle Rick Wagner had similar problems on the other side dealing with Von Miller.
On Sunday, Hurst and Wagner will again be tested by the Oakland Raiders' edge rushers, a group that includes Khalil Mack and Aldon Smith. Hurst, the second-year undrafted tackle out of North Carolina, is expected to get the start after Monroe was declared out of Sunday's game with a concussion. Monroe didn't practice all week.
"[Harbaugh] said the tackles and Rick and I both know that we can play better and we know that we're relied on to play better than we did," Hurst said following the Ravens' practice Friday. "It's a challenge to us, and we challenge ourselves to do that as well. We'll be ready."
Hurst started seven games last year as a rookie, including both playoff contests, and mostly held his own. However, he and Wagner looked overwhelmed against the Broncos. Mack and Smith aren't as accomplished as Ware and Miller, but they're a dangerous pass-rushing combination and Mack is considered one of the game's up-and-coming defensive stars. They're certainly capable of wreaking havoc if the Ravens allow it.
"Guys who play differently but same challenge," Hurst said. "You have to get in the film room, study those guys, know those guys and go out and play to your strengths and be confident in yourself and try and get the job done."
Babin ready to play
Harbaugh saw enough in outside linebacker Jason Babin's three practices this week to believe that he can play Sunday. Babin, in his 12th NFL season, signed with the team Tuesday, two days after the Ravens lost Terrell Suggs to a season-ending Achilles injury.
"He's a veteran player," Harbaugh said. "His whole thing is making sure where to line up. He's been in the defense. He's a really smart guy. I'm very confident that he can line up and play good football. It's not like here's a guy who hadn't been playing in training camp. He'd been playing up until a week ago. He's in football shape. He's ready to go."
Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees said Thursday that he has been impressed with how Babin has gone about his business. The Ravens are expected to use Babin as a situational pass rusher, behind starters Elvis Dumervil and Courtney Upshaw.
"I think he's really, really trying to learn. He's spending extra time with [linebackers coach Ted Monachino] trying to learn the system," Pees said. "So, those are probably the two things right now that I'm most impressed with him, is just the shape that he's in and secondly, the attitude that he's got. It is not like [he's] coming in here and [saying], 'Well, here's what I'll do.' No, he's coming in here trying to learn our defense, and we appreciate that."
Jernigan, Taliaferro probable
Running back Lorenzo Taliaferro and defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, who both missed last week's game with knee injuries, are probable to play against the Raiders. Running back Justin Forsett (shoulder) was also listed as probable.
Cornerback Rashaan Melvin (thigh) and wide receiver Darren Waller, a new addition to the injury report with an ankle injury, are questionable. Monroe and rookie wide receiver Breshad Perriman (knee) were both declared out.
The Ravens will have their pregame walk-through Saturday at Stanford after practicing the previous four days at San Jose State. Asked if he was pleased with his decision to stay on the West Coast and prepare for Sunday's game, Harbaugh said, "The wisdom is in the results as well all know. We go out there and take care of business and it was a good move." … For the Raiders, quarterback Derek Carr (thumb) is probable and safety Charles Woodson (shoulder) is questionable. Defensive tackle Justin Ellis, defensive end Benson Mayowa and running back Jamize Olawale are out. … Former Ravens safety Bernard Pollard said on his Twitter account that he worked out with the Raiders on Friday.