The Runner Sports

How Far Can Allen Hurns Go?

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It’s about time someone makes a bold prediction that doesn’t have to do with Bortles stealing the job away from Henne, the Jaguars winning 10+ games, or Toby Gerhart becoming the next purple Jesus. Frankly, I’m just not sure how feasible any of these projections are. So fuck it, I’ll take it even further – here’s my bold prediction:

Allen Hurns will be the Jaguars leading receiver this season.

Yeah, I said it.

Wouldn’t that just be a kick in the nuts to GM Dave Caldwell? I mean, the guy spent two second round picks this past May on top-level WR talent in Marquise Lee and Allen Robinson. If all goes according to plan, those two should be the Jaguars’ one-two punch, perhaps behind Cecil Shorts.

But tell me, when does all go according to plan? I have superior faith in Lee and Robinson. Robinson was a prospect I set my sights on before the draft; he’s a big target and about as solid as they come. Marquise Lee, I’ll admit, I didn’t really forestall being drafted by Caldwell.  He’s quick and has a knack for playmaking. Although he started off slow, Lee redeemed himself with a nice drive and TD reception last week against Chicago.

Veteran Cecil Shorts is the Jaguars undisputed number one receiver while Justin Blackmon remains out of the picture, but that’s not exactly reassuring considering he has finished every one of his three seasons on IR. On the first day of training camp this year, Shorts got banged up once again and is now slowly working his way back to playing full speed.

Allen Hurns is somewhere in the WR mix, too, hiding from the ever-present WR injury bug and keeping away from the hysteria following the Jags’ highly publicized first three draft picks (Bortles, Lee, and Robinson). No, Hurns isn’t flashy or capable of stealing attention from those guys – yet. But quietly, Hurns has been the most reliable and even the most effective receiver through two preseason games. Where the hell did he come from?

Miami Hurricanes fans will be the first to claim the travesty that was Allen Hurns going undrafted this past May. In 2013, Hurns led the powerhouse Hurricanes in receptions and receiving yards, with 62 catches and 1162 yards. That 1162 is a school record.

Being the top receiver on an elite college program wasn’t enough, as every single NFL team passed on Hurns during the 2014 draft. The criticisms were there; Hurns was (and is) primarily an underneath, zone receiver with no real ability to burn corners or create notable separation. Perhaps he got lost in a loaded WR draft class, or was forgotten due to his mediocre combine numbers. Whatever; I still hold the opinion that the kid should have been drafted somewhere.

The Jaguars brought Hurns into camp after the draft, most likely thanks to offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch’s ties to Miami. Ever since the Jags snagged Hurns as an UDFA, the rookie hasn’t looked back. The criticisms haven’t disappeared, but the implementation of Hurns into the Jags’ offense has been a hand in glove fit. His timing routes look clean; his chemistry with both Chad Henne and Blake Bortles has been far and away the best out of any receiver so far. Hurns will almost certainly make the final roster. He’s seen plenty of action during training camp and preseason thanks to early injuries to Cecil Shorts and 2nd round picks Allen Robinson and Marquise Lee, and will most likely continue to see a lot of playing time through the end of the preseason.

During a video showing head coach Gus Bradley mic’d up, Gus approached starting QB Chad Henne and asked, in a way only Gus could, “How about Hurnsy? Is he your diamond?”

Chad said yes. Allen Hurns has most definitely been a diamond in the rough this offseason. He’s been steady while most Jags receivers have been down or inconsistent. We’re bound to see his playing time drop as real football comes back into our lives, when Shorts and Robinson can come back from injury and the plan moves on just as it was supposed to all along.

And even after pointing all of that out, I still maintain that Hurns could end up as the top Jags receiver this season.

Bold? Maybe. But after knowing where Hurns comes from, how he’s able to make an impact, and seeing him remain intact while other receivers have been in pieces this offseason, I don’t think you can call that prediction unreasonable.

The Jaguars receiving core is already banged up, and as the season progresses, unfortunately, the situation is bound to get worse. Last season, after losing Cecil Shorts to injury just like every year, rookie Ace Sanders stepped up late in the season to become the Jaguars go-to guy. Nobody on the coaching staff was tickled with the idea of Sanders being the Jaguars main target, but they didn’t have much choice. Justin Blackmon was suspended. Shorts was injured. Someone else had to be the workhorse.

This season, I believe Hurns is much better to be a workhorse than Sanders was last season. Hopefully, Cecil Shorts sees his first NFL season that doesn’t end with him on IR. But the reality is this: Shorts is injury prone. Blackmon still isn’t here, and he’s not coming back. Sanders isn’t here, either, on a leave of absence after word of a Blackmon-esque suspension looming in the balance. The Jags drafted WR talent, and they look promising, but Lee isn’t the reliable go-to kind of wide out and Robinson has already suffered multiple injuries in his short tenure with the Jags.

I’m not saying Hurns will become the Jags’ next go-to guy over night. He hasn’t even had a chance to be on the field with Cecil or Robinson, and chances are he starts the season behind them anyway. Hell, the guy isn’t even a definitive lock to make the roster, I guess.  I’m just saying – if the Jaguars have another Jaguars-esque injury bugged season where they’re scrapping the bottom of the barrel for offensive contribution, chances are we could look up week 17 and see Allen Hurns as the leading Jaguars receiver. Don’t get me wrong; I sincerely hope this isn’t the case, because it will have meant that the Jaguars didn’t have the season they’d hoped to have.

But if a scenario plays out as such, I have no doubt Allen Hurns could fill that role for the Jaguars better than punt return specialist Ace Sanders. Hurns has looked like a bona fide NFL wide receiver so far, and he shows too much potential not to grow. Grow into a number one target? I seriously think he could be that guy, just as much as Robinson could or Shorts has been. I won’t let Hurns’ UDFA status or buried position on roster play into this argument. He should have been drafted, and chances are he will move up the depth chart quicker than we think. If you’re overreacting to the first two preseason games as much as I am, then I know you can see where I’m coming from.

If you turn your attention away from the QB situation for a minute, it’s hard not to see something special in this Hurns kid.

My predictions may be too bold. But it’s at least something to watch going forward.

Author: Cole Hartley

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