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Despite Raiders’ defensive struggles, interior of defensive line has its bright spots

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NFL: Oakland Raiders at Los Angeles Chargers Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Pick a part of the Oakland Raiders. Offense, special teams, or defense. Whatever you pick, it hasn’t been good in 2018.

With the season long down the drain, there are bright spots here and there, if you look hard enough. One such bright spot is the interior of the defensive line which has shown some promise for the Raiders’ future.

There is obviously this year’s fifth-round selection Maurice Hurst, who has the makings of a future Pro Bowler. He and fellow rookie PJ Hall who have both shown the ability to create interior pressure.

“We graded Mo as a high drafted player. Then he had the condition that he had and teams backed off. It was at that point in the draft in the fifth round, it was too good to pass up,” defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said this week of Hurst. “He’s the player we expected him to be. He’s a perfect fit for what we do here defensively. He hasn’t let us down a day. He’s played really good for a rookie. There’s not a lot of guys in there playing…There’s not many rookie D-Linemen starting in the NFL, No. 1. Then you have him and P.J. [Hall] and Arden [Key] getting all these snaps, it’s going to pay off down the road for sure.”

It’s been more than just the young guys who have proven to be solid additions. Johnathan Hankins recent contributions to the team since his signing in September.

“He’s done tremendous,” Guenther said of Hankins. “He’s been a big add for us. He’s played great every game. He’s a big body in there. He’s pretty athletic for a big guy, too. He can move around. We’re glad to have him. Hopefully we can keep him around for the future.”

Help is on the way as well. The Raiders are expecting the return of Justin Ellis next week to help beef up the interior rotation as well.

It could be a small bright spot for an Oakland defense that could sure use some bright spots.