PHILADELPHIA | When you talk to a veteran about a rookie in August, usually you will hear a familiar phrase.
Something to the effect of: “We’ll have to see him do it when it counts.”
Jaguars rookie receiver Allen Hurns showed he can do it when it counts Sunday. Hurns continued his unlikely climb on the offensive priority list in the team’s 34-17 loss to the Eagles.
The former University of Miami standout caught four passes for 110 yards and two touchdowns. He became the first undrafted rookie to catch two touchdowns in his first game since the New York Giants’ Bobby Johnson in 1984.
These weren’t garbage time catches either. Hurns helped the Jaguars grab a 17-0 lead at halftime.
“He’s a baller and he’s only going to get better,” Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis said. “He doesn’t let the pressure get to him. He was amazing.”
The 6-foot-3, 195-pound Hurns scored his first touchdown showing his speed and crisp route running. He easily beat cornerback Cary Williams on a post pattern that quarterback Chad Henne was a bit late on throwing. Hurns slowed but was still able to catch the ball in the end zone, despite Williams pushing him down as the ball arrived.
On Hurns’ second scoring grab, he ran a shorter post route and Henne threw the ball significantly behind him. Hurns made the adjustment to reach back and catch the ball. He then kept enough speed and power to drag safety Nate Allen and linebacker DeMeco Ryans the final three yards into the end zone.
Two catches, two touchdowns. Hurns became the second NFL rookie to ever do that, joining Detroit’s Charles Rogers.
Hurns seems to be a gift from the football gods to amend for years of bad karma for the Jaguars when it comes to disappointing receivers.
To Henne’s credit, he quickly built a strong chemistry with Hurns in the early stages of the offseason program.
“I kind of figured out all along that he’s a playmaker,” Henne said. “He showed today that he is. We’re going to keep giving him opportunities.”
Henne’s trust in Hurns is so strong that with the offense backed up at its 1-yard line, he threw deep. Hurns responded with a 46-yard grab down the sideline, a gain that led to a field goal.
“I’m really excited about his development and where we can go with him,” Henne said. “If he keeps making those plays, he’s going to be one of our go-to guys.”
He already is.
Hurns hasn’t been fazed at any stage of his first several months in the NFL. He led the NFL with 232 receiving yards in the preseason.
Sure, there were rookie moments for Hurns. He dropped two passes in the second half. One was on a deep sideline route on a ball perfectly delivered by Henne. On another, Hurns got drilled over the middle as the ball arrived.
Those were the plays Hurns remembered most. He never smiled in his postgame press conference up on the podium in front of dozens of reporters.
He had made history, but you would have never known it.
“I am not too excited about it at all,” Hurns said. “I feel like I can improve even more. There were two catches that I know I could have caught that is getting to me a little bit, but I know I can learn from them.”
Hurns has out-produced both receivers the Jaguars selected in the second round of the NFL draft in May. Lee caught six passes for 62 yards in his debut. However, three of those catches (for 36 yards) were in the final minute with the Eagles leading by 17.
Robinson, who missed every preseason game with a hamstring injury, caught one pass for no gain.
The (good) dilemma for the Jaguars is that it’s difficult for an offense to have four wide receivers getting a bunch of targets. Veteran Cecil Shorts remains the team’s top option for now when he’s able to play. The Jaguars also must continue to push Lee and Robinson to develop into the players they envisioned when they invested so highly in them.
One of those three could have to take a back seat at some point. Hurns shows no signs of not being an impact player for the offense.
After one game, he stands 756 yards and four touchdowns away from owning the team's rookie records in both categories.