Coming off the first preseason game of his NFL career, 49ers receiver Jalen Hurd had the look of a future star. He caught three passes for 31 yards in a 17-9 exhibition win over the Dallas Cowboys, including two touchdown receptions.
Unfortunately for Hurd, that was the one and only game he played in last season. He sat out the remainder of his rookie campaign due to a stress fracture in his back, which even prevented him from traveling to Miami for Super Bowl LIV.
Now healthy and cleared for full activity, Hurd has been ramping up to make up for lost time. He was one of a few 49ers' receivers to attend a players-only workout at San Jose State on Wednesday, and connected with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo on a would-be TD pass similar to one of his two against the Cowboys.
Though they haven't had much time to develop on-field chemistry, Garoppolo is impressed by Hurd's vast potential.
"Jalen is very raw. He’s so explosive, so powerful,” Garoppolo told The Athletic's Matt Barrows on Friday. “There’s so many little technique things, I guess you could say, he hasn’t even learned yet. But he enjoys learning it. That’s one of the main things I like about coming out here -- when we get to talk about the stuff, you can see he’s eating it up, taking it all in. And then he goes out and does it. When you have a guy like that, it makes quarterbacking very easy."
A third-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, Hurd is a potential matchup nightmare. He played both receiver and running back in college, and listed at 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, he has the frame to make an impact all over the field, but perhaps particularly in the middle. As The Athletic's David Lombardi noted, that just happens to be the area in which Garoppolo is most efficient.
Jimmy Garoppolo's best play comes when he throws between the numbers, and it's worth noting just how efficient the 49ers QB was there in 2019 (per PFF):— David Lombardi (@LombardiHimself) June 12, 2020
0-10 yards: 74%, 8.0 YPA, 107.3 rating
10+ yards: 66%, 11.3 YPA, 104.6 rating
20+ yards: 69%, 26.3 YPA (13 att), 119.4 rating
"He’s someone who is not only physically capable of doing it but is willing to do it mentally,” Garoppolo described Hurd. “You’ve got to have that on a team and we’ve got a bunch of guys -- Deebo (Samuel), (Kendrick Bourne) -- I mean, those guys are fearless and you’ve got to respect them for that. And Jalen, he’s very similar in that way."
Samuel forced the most missed tackles on receptions (18) of any receiver in the NFL last season, trailing only San Francisco tight end George Kittle (20) for the most in the league. If Hurd can make anywhere near the same kind of impact in 2020, well, let's just say defensive backs aren't going to be looking forward to facing the 49ers.
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