49ers roster: 2021 training camp could be Jalen Hurd’s last chance

Jalen Hurd #17 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
Jalen Hurd #17 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images) /

Reports are saying 49ers third-year wide receiver Jalen Hurd could be ready by training camp, which is important because it could be his last chance.

If there’s one goal for San Francisco 49ers third-year wide receiver Jalen Hurd in 2021, it’s to stay healthy.

Unfortunately, this has been something Hurd hasn’t been able to do the last two seasons. After being selected in Round 3 of the 2019 NFL Draft, Hurd flashed some talents during the preseason but ultimately fell victim to a serious back injury that prematurely ended his rookie year and even prevented him from traveling with the team to Super Bowl LIV.

And any hopes for a bounce-back campaign in 2020 went out the window when Hurd tore his ACL during training camp workouts.

Just like that, two years are gone.

Heading into 2021, Hurd is hitting that dangerous average of NFL players’ careers, which is currently at 3.1 years. And even though the Niners have vested interest in Hurd’s development and recovery, they likely won’t extend their patience much longer.

For now, at least, signs are pointing to Hurd finally being able to make an impact.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan spoke to reporters on Wednesday about Hurd’s status, and the outlook was a good one:

"It’s been great to have Jalen back. He came back right when phase two startedand he’s done a good job in his ACL rehab. He should be ready to go by camp, sohopefully there’s no setbacks and stuff like that. Right now, he’s just working out with[head athletic trainer] Dustin [Little] on the side and making sure he continues to rehaband gets ready for his time, which will be training camp."

That’s one obstacle. There are going to be many more.

Jalen Hurd still has a long way to go to stick with 49ers

There’s no questioning San Francisco could use Hurd’s sizable 6-foot-4, 227-pound frame. His prior collegiate experience as a running back helps him with vision and physicality after getting the ball in his hands.

But that also is a double-edged sword, as Hurd played only one collegiate season as a wide receiver after transferring from Tennessee to Baylor. In terms of an experienced wideout, Hurd is lacking.

And missing the last two seasons because of injuries won’t help him much in that regard.

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At the same time, though, the 49ers have some notable depth needs at wide receiver. For now, Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel are pegged as the team’s two starting wideouts. In the wake of wide receiver Kendrick Bourne leaving in free agency for the New England Patriots, the door remains open for a player like Hurd to seize the No. 3 spot on the depth chart.

Whether that is intended to be as a big-slot weapon, something Shanahan has deployed before, or as a reserve boundary-type receiver is anyone’s guess. Yet it’s still safe to say Hurd will be given every chance to at least compete for the role in training camp.

More importantly, though, Hurd will have to display he’s going to be fully healthy first, then worry about what specific role he’ll occupy. But if the lack of practical field time and reps winds up coming back to haunt him in training camp, merely staying healthy might not be good enough.

Even though that should still be Hurd’s first goal despite the fact his first two years in the league haven’t exactly gone according to plan.

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