By R.L. Bynum
New Orleans Saints left tackle James Hurst got his chance last week when starter Terron Armstead suffered an elbow injury in the first half.
Hurst was in for a season-high 55 snaps in the Saints’ 28–13 win at New England and is sure to get more work for at least a few games since Armstead is expected to be out for a few weeks. Coach Sean Payton singled out Hurst after the game as playing well.
“A situation like that, you see him go to the tunnel, you have to tell yourself that he’s probably not coming back to this game,” Hurst said of Armstead’s exit last week. “So, that just allows you to fully lock in at left tackle. Here’s my assignment. Here are the guys that I’m going to be blocking. Here’s the certain play that we might have in this week that could have some different rules. As soon as you see a guy go down that you’re backing up, you’ve just got to fully lock in.”
Last season, Hurst played 35% of the Saints’ offensive snaps and showed his versatility, starting two games at tackle and one at guard. For the most part, he was used as a sixth offensive lineman, reporting as tackle-eligible on the Saints’ jumbo package.
That percentage should shoot up this Sunday against the New York Giants after he played 89% of the snaps last week.
Hurst technically started the Patriots game because he was part of that jumbo package on the first play. But he’s expected to start this week and stay on the field this week. The 6–5, 310-pound eight-year veteran is eager to prove his worth in Armstead’s absence and says he loves when the Saints turn up the running game.
“It’s a ton of fun as an offensive lineman running the ball,” Hurst said. “We’re the aggressors. We’re setting the line of scrimmage, we’re changing the line of scrimmage and everyone looks forward to that, especially on this team. We take so much pride and we have unbelievable running backs. We have great play-calling that’s gonna put us in situations to make our blocks easier, so I’m so grateful for that.”
Running back Alvin Kamara is the Saints’ leading rusher with 177 yards on 52 carries through three games.
Hurst and the rest of the 2–1 Saints are excited to finally have their first true home game of the season, welcoming the 0–3 Giants to the Superdome at 1 p.m. Sunday (Fox). Because of the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, their first scheduled home game against Green Bay on Sept. 12 was instead played in Jacksonville, Fla.
“Oh man, I can’t wait,” Hurst said. “It’ll be the first time for me on the right team. I played here twice on the wrong team, and it was rough. So, I’m really excited for it. I know it’s gonna be great. We just want to go out and win and make it a fun environment. Life is miserable [for the opposing team], especially when you’re out there on offense you can’t hear a word. You better hope there’s no audible, no check because you’re not gonna hear. I’m just looking forward to being on the right side of that this time.”
Hurst is in his second season with the Saints after playing his first six seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, who signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2014. His last season as a full-time starter was 2017, when he played all 16 games at left guard. He signed a three-year contract extension with New Orleans in March.
At Carolina, Hurst was a freshman All-American in 2010, second-team All-ACC in 2011 and first-team All-ACC in 2013 when the Tar Heels went 7–6 and beat Cincinnati in a Charlotte bowl game.
For now, Hurst is focused on doing his part.
“We’re all focused on just coming in and doing your part, whatever that is each game,” Hurst said. “That’s what the job is, and I feel like I played well enough to get the job done and so I’m excited about that.”
Another Tar Heel to look out for is Chicago Bears outside linebacker Robert Quinn, who already has four sacks through three games, tied for fourth in the league, after collecting two all of last season. He has three tackles for losses after failing to record one last season.
Quinn has been one of the few bright spots for the 1–2 Bears, who visit the 0–3 Detroit Lions at 1 p.m. Sunday (Fox).
Not so bright has been the offensive performance.
Increasingly, more observers have concluded that the Bears’ offensive woes last season should be blamed on Coach Matt Nagy and not on quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, now the backup QB in Buffalo. Meanwhile, Dazz Newsome remains on the team’s practice squad.
Trubisky put up a 93.5 passer rating last season. Andy Dalton had a 72.5 in Week 1 against the L.A. Rams and an 118.2 in Week 2 against Cincinnati (on only 11 pass attempts for 56 yards). Justin Fields has put up an 87.5 (with only 2 attempts in Week 1), a 27.7 (in Week 2) and a 41.3 (Week 3). Third-string QB Nick Foles hasn’t played.
Javonte Williams will try to continue his momentum for the 3–0 Denver Broncos when they play host to the 2–1 Baltimore Ravens at 4:25 p.m. Sunday (CBS).
Williams, who has 138 rushing yards and 39 reception yards, is tied for ninth in the league in evaded tacklers with 16.
After starting for Washington (1–2) the first three weeks of the season, wide receiver Dyami Brown may come off the bench against the Atlanta Falcons (1–2) with Curtis Samuel activated Friday off injured reserve. Samuel missed the first three games with a groin injury.
Brown has four receptions for 32 yards.
“Dyami is growing and learning,” Washington coach Ron Rivera said last week. “He’s a rookie that has some things he has to improve on. We would like to see him get a little more active.”
Michael Carter seeks his elusive first NFL victory at 1 p.m. Sunday when the 0–3 New York Jets are at home against the 2–1 Tennessee Titans.
Giovani Bernard will miss Tampa Bay’s 8:20 game Sunday night on NBC at New England with a knee injury that was described earlier last week as a mild MCL strain. He suffered the injury when flipping over at the end of a touchdown reception late in the Bucs’ 34–24 road loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
Giovani Bernard, Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back
at New England Patriots, 8:20 p.m. Sunday, NBC (WRAL in Triangle)
Season statistics — 3 games, 13 catches, 79 yards (6.1 average, longest 32 yards), 1 touchdown, 1 fumble
Dyami Brown, Washington wide receiver
at Atlanta, 1 p.m. Sunday, Fox
Season statistics — 3 games, 4 receptions, 32 yards (longest 22 yards); 1 rush for -4 yards
Michael Carter, New York Jets running back
vs. Tennessee, 1 p.m. Sunday, CBS
Season statistics — 3 games, 24 carries, 89 yards (3.7 average, longest 14 yards); 5 receptions, 48 yards (9.6 average, longest 17 yards)
Eric Ebron, Pittsburgh Steelers tight end
at Green Bay, 4:25 p.m. Sunday, CBS (WNCN in Triangle)
Season statistics — 3 games, 1 reception, 19 yards
Charlie Heck, Houston Texans right tackle
at Buffalo, 1 p.m. Sunday, CBS
Season statistics — 2 games, no starts; 2 offensive snaps; 6 special-teams snaps
Cole Holcomb, Washington outside linebacker
at Atlanta, 1 p.m. Sunday, Fox
Season statistics — 3 games, 18 tackles, 10 assists, 1 tackle for a loss
Mack Hollins, Miami Dolphins wide receiver
vs. Indianapolis, 1 p.m. Sunday, CBS
Season statistics — 3 games, no statistics
James Hurst, New Orleans Saints left tackle
vs. New York Giants, 1 p.m. Sunday, Fox
Season statistics — 3 games; 81 offensive snaps, 13 special-teams snaps
Robert Quinn, Chicago Bears outside linebacker
vs. Detroit, 1 p.m. Sunday, Fox
Season statistics — 3 games, 4 tackles, 3 assists, 4 sacks, 1 tackle for a loss, 1 QB hit
Andre Smith, Buffalo Bills weakside linebacker
vs. Houston, 1 p.m. Sunday, Fox
Season statistics — 1 game, 1 special-teams tackle
M.J. Stewart Jr., Cleveland Browns strong safety
at Minnesota, 1 p.m. Sunday, CBS
Season statistics — 3 games, 3 tackles, 2 assists, 1 special-teams tackle
Chazz Surratt, Minnesota Vikings weakside linebacker
vs. Cleveland, 1 p.m. Sunday, CBS
Season statistics — 2 games, no statistics
Mitchell Trubisky, Buffalo Bills quarterback
vs. Houston, 1 p.m. Sunday, CBS
Season statistics — 3 games; 1 of 1 passing for 1 yard; 6 rushes for 17 yards, 79.2 passer rating
Javonte Williams, Denver Broncos running back
vs. Baltimore, 4:25 p.m. Sunday, CBS
Season statistics — 3 games, 39 carries, 138 yards (3.5 average; longest 16 yards); 5 catches, 39 yards (7.8 average, longest 17 yards)
Tar Heels on practice squads
Jake Bargas, Minnesota Vikings fullback
Myles Dorn, Minnesota Vikings safety (played 10 special-teams snaps on Week 2)
Dazz Newsome, Chicago Bears wide receiver
Antonio Williams, Buffalo Bills running back
Injured Tar Heels
Jalen Dalton, New Orleans Saints defensive tackle, suffered season-ending triceps injury
Ryan Switzer, Cleveland Browns wide receiver, had ankle surgery Aug. 20