Here's what we know about Jaguars wide receiver Allen Hurns: He's an undrafted rookie out of Miami, and he had 110 yards and two touchdowns against the Eagles in his first regular-season game. And that's about it. But a debut performance like that will land you a heap of attention, from casual fans and fantasy owners alike. Is Hurns a legitimate gem passed over by the draft—he seemed to be good at torching ACC secondaries in college—or was he simply the beneficiary of a comatose first half from the Eagles?
Hurns only got his shot as a main target due to the absences of a few Jags receivers. Justin Blackmon, one of the top receiving prospects of the 2012 draft and just about the only competent wideout on the roster, was suspended indefinitely after multiple substance abuse policy violations. Ace Sanders is missing the first four games of the season for an unclear suspension. Cecil Shorts was ruled out of Sunday's game with a hamstring injury. Hurns had a notable preseason, catching a team-leading 14 receptions for 232 yards, and earned a spot on the roster.
So, Hurns lined up Sunday and caught two straight touchdown passes in the first quarter. Not bad! On the first, Hurns ran a deep post route, pulled off a slight move to twist up corner Cary Williams, got past safety Nate Allen, and came back for the ball:
It's possible Williams was expecting a little more help over the top, but Allen was in coverage underneath, and it's not like Williams just turned Hurns loose—he turned and ran, and was beaten clean.
Hurns's second touchdown came against zone coverage. He ran a dig/in to get behind Malcolm Jenkins and Bradley Fletcher, who were both watching Marqise Lee in the flat. After that, Hurns plowed through a few late-arriving defenders on his way to the end zone:
Hurns's third catch went for 46 yards. He shook Williams with a stutter and was wide open enough for Henne to not fuck up an easy throw. Huge gain:
Hurns's fourth and final catch was on an in-and-out route for a first down. (No GIF of this one; it wasn't anything notable.) He ran it smoothly and got separation from Nate Allen, staying on his feet as he was gang-tackled.
Hurns had five other targets for incompletions, but looking them over, he didn't have any egregious fuckups. One was swatted at the line by Connor Barwin; another was an inaccurate Henne throw on a comeback; one bounced off of Hurns's fingertips; one was caught but jarred loose; and one was forced into tight coverage. The pass off his fingertips shouldn't qualify as a drop, as the ball was just in front of him. There are a couple of marks against Hurns. He leaves his feet when it's not necessary, and that behavior opens him up to painful, unnecessary hits. Also, all four of Hurns's catches came in the first half, before the Eagles secondary underwent halftime adjustments.
What changed in the second half? Philly's pass rush improved and pressured Henne, which made him less accurate. While the Jags' offensive line held up in the first half, the pass protection eventually fell apart—as it's likely to do often this year—and once the line broke down, Henne became sloppy. He had five incompletions in the first half, and 14 in the second. In general, the Eagles' coverage just woke up, doing a better job of contesting passes and not giving up yards after the catch.
Here's the best example from the second half, on Henne's deep incompletion just beyond Hurns's reach. The pocket collapses, and Henne's hit right after he releases the ball. Hurns does his stutter move to Bradley Fletcher but doesn't shake him off; Fletcher continues to watch the ball and stay with the receiver. With Philly's first-half defense, this could have been another big gain, but on this play, even if Henne had found time, Fletcher was right there to contest the ball, or at least contain Hurns's yards after the catch.
So what's the very-small-sample-size verdict? Hurns will not be Justin Blackmon 2.0, but he's useful. When Shorts and Sanders comes back, the Jaguars should still use Hurns on the outside. Lee, who had 10 targets Sunday, is the more promising rookie, but Hurns could be quite valuable as a supplement to stretch out the secondary at the very least.
Jacksonville doesn't have great receiving depth, but it's young and surprisingly talented. And with a suspect running game of Toby Gerhart and Jordan Todman, the Jags should air it out plenty this season.
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