JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Although several signs have pointed to a demotion, Jaguars wide receiver Allen Hurns still has a prominent role in the Jacksonville offense.
The fourth-year player was the subject of trade rumors after he was held out of the team's second preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. There was also talk of him being supplanted by rookie wide receivers Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook after the team released its unofficial depth chart earlier in Week 1.
Despite those interesting clues, Hurns is set to receive plenty of attention in Nathaniel Hackett's offense this season. Hurns lined up as a slot receiver for the majority of the offseason and has continued to play that role in practice this week.
"I've been taking most of the slots reps," Hurns said. "So that's my permanent position right now. I'm feeling very comfortable with it. Once you start getting a lot of reps, you start to learn a lot about [the position]."
Hurn's move to the slot explains the unofficial depth chart, which featured a 21 personnel (two backs, one tight end) base lineup on offense. In 21 personnel, the Jaguars would only use two wide receivers, negating the slot position.
The Jaguars are trying to find ways to get their top three receivers on the field. With Allen Robinson and Marqise Lee serving as the top two outside options, it has forced Hurns to the inside.
The 25-year-old has adjusted to the role and embraced the new opportunity.
"Of course, I've got to know all three positions," Hurns said. "At times where A-Rob gets tired, I go in at X [receiver] sometimes in practice. But for me, I'm ready for whatever, I've studied the playbook to where I know each and every position, so I'm versatile. My main position when me, Marqise Lee and A-Rob are out there on the field, I'll be in the slot."
Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles has plenty of confidence in Hurns. The two have played together for four years and the quarterback knows what the wide receiver is capable of.
"I think Hurns is a guy that has showed up day in and day out for going on four years now and busted his tail to help this team win football games," Bortles said.
"He’s been rewarded for that, and I think whether Hurns’ role is huge or a little bit smaller, he’s going to continue to do what Hurns does and show up every day and be an unbelievable teammate and do everything he can to help this team win. I wouldn’t want anybody else besides him.”
The Jaguars were at nearly full attendance during the first official regular season practice Wednesday. The lone holdout was running back T.J. Yeldon (hamstring), who missed the final two preseason games.
Yeldon is the best blocking back on the roster, which puts his availability at a premium with the Jaguars set to face the Texans in Week 1. Yeldon's absence would be a blow to the Jaguars' protection of Bortles against J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney.
While he was the only one to miss practice, Yeldon was joined on the injury report by seven others.
Bortles (right wrist), cornerback Jalen Ramsey (hip), offensive tackle Josh Wells (ribs), defensive end Dante Fowler (knee), safety Tashaun Gipson (ankle), wide receiver Dede Westbrook (core) and defensive tackle Michael Bennett (groin) all appeared on the first injury report of the year.
Bortles, Bennett and Wells were full participants in practice, while Fowler, Gipson, Ramsey and Westbrook were limited.
More News and Notes
- Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone said the team is still figuring out the left guard spot. The position has been in a state of flux since the conclusion of mandatory minicamp.
- On a conference call with Tom Savage, the Texans quarterback called Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey "one of the best cornerbacks in the league."
- The Jaguars' coaching staff has held meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday to form a plan to help their players and their families prepare for Hurricane Irma while the team is in Houston.
- Marrone said the Jaguars have an "emergency quarterback," but he refused to reveal the player.
Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.