The Jaguars’ wide receiver said he doesn’t like publicly discussing numbers or goals specifically, either, but that whole time-tested theory about a player improving from Year One to Year Two in the NFL?
Hurns definitely buys into that.
And he said that’s definitely what the coming offseason is about.
Hurns, perhaps the surprise player of the Jaguars’ rookie draft class this past season and definitely a player who earned a key role in the offense moving forward, said the offseason is about preparing for a future he believes is bright – for himself, and for the organization.
“I’m not going to put any numbers out there, but I just know this is just the beginning,” Hurns said recently in the wake of a 2014 season in which he set a franchise rookie record for receiving touchdowns. “I feel like it’s going to be greater later.”
Hurns’ beginning was good. Very good.
That’s particularly true considering he wasn’t just a rookie receiver this past season, but an undrafted rookie receiver on a team that also included two second-round draft pick rookie receivers.
Hurns, who played collegiately at the University of Miami, signed with the Jaguars as an undrafted free agent shortly after the 2014 NFL Draft. He was familiar with the offensive scheme, having played for offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch for two seasons at Miami, and he immediately took advantage of that familiarity.
While Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson, the Jaguars’ second-round selections, missed much of the offseason program with injuries, Hurns participated in the drills and entered training camp very much in the receiving rotation.
He led Jaguars receivers with 14 preseason receptions for 232 yards and a touchdown, and despite his collegiate free agent status there was no mystery surrounding him when the Jaguars trimmed the roster late in the preseason.
Hurns started the regular-season opener, catching four passes for a season-high 110 yards against the Philadelphia Eagles and scoring touchdown passes on his first two NFL receptions. He finished the season playing in all 16 games – the only receiver in the Jaguars’ front-line rotation to do so – and started eight games, catching 51 passes for 677 yards and six touchdowns.
“I think I established myself, but there have been ups and downs,” he said. “I feel I could have made a lot more plays.”
Up next for Hurns:
Improving, which he said specifically means adding weight to his 6-feet-1, 195-pound frame and continuing to improve as a route-runner. That last part is an area he said he improved as a rookie while working with wide receivers coach Jerry Sullivan, but he said it remains a focus.
“Since I got here, Coach Sullivan has done a tremendous job helping me improve my routes,” Hurns said. “I felt like that’s what separated me this season as far as going against veteran defensive backs. I want to work on that, because I know how much it worked.”
Hurns said that sort of improvement doesn’t happen by simply showing up for the offseason and organized team activities in mid-April.
“Once OTAs come I want to be ahead of the game as far as staying in shape and working on my route-running,” he said.
Hurns will enter next season as a key member of not only a young, talented receiving trio that includes Lee and Robinson, but as a key part of an offense that will feature a new coordinator along with a quarterback, Blake Bortles, entering his second season as a starter.
He also will enter it knowing something he didn’t know this time a year ago – that he absolutely, positively can play in the NFL. That means the short-term future is about improving, and Hurns said his short-term past should help with that.
“It’s just the beginning,” Hurns said. “I’ve shown that I can play in this league and now I know what to expect. I feel like it’s only going to get better from here as far as having a year under your belt and knowing what to expect as far as taking care of your body, knowing what coverages to expect and getting familiar with things.
“Your confidence just grows as you get familiar with those things.”
And while Hurns said he is confident he can improve, he said that’s just as true of the offense and a team that he said has only started to mature and grow.
“We had three wins,” he said. “I’m not very pleased with that. You see the opportunity there as far as our offense. We’ve got a lot of potential, a lot of guys making plays, but at the end of the day, we haven’t put up many points. I feel like it’s just the beginning of what we’re going to get done.”