Photo Credit: Chris Mezzavilla
There is no question that Jalen Hurd has been an immense source of frustration for the 49ers over the last three years. The former third-round pick has flashed elite-caliber potential as a positionally flexible receiving option, but after a two-touchdown receiving performance against the Dallas Cowboys in his first preseason game, the 49ers discovered a back injury (termed a stress fracture, then stress reaction). After recovering from that, Hurd tore his ACL in a training camp practice last fall.
Hurd has been limited in this training camp, too. He’s dealt with post-ACL injury knee tendinitis, and the 49ers shut him out of practice for 10 days, including on their joint practice trip to Southern California, in an effort to reduce that pain and get him feeling right.
Hurd returned to practice in full on Wednesday and Thursday, and reinforced why he’s so frustrating. When on the field, it is unquestionable that he’s one of the 49ers’ most talented and useful wide receivers. He’s probably third behind Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel in terms of pure talent.
But he’s rarely on the field, so how do the 49ers evaluate him? Both Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch joined KNBR on Thursday and Friday, respectively, giving nearly identical assessments of Hurd.
On Thursday, Shanahan said, essentially, if Hurd is healthy, he’s on the roster.
Lynch reinforced that on Friday.
“We’re excited about him. We’re holding on,” Lynch said. “He hasn’t played in the first couple years, but for good reason. He’s had legitimate injuries. But he’s been out there, he’s had two really hard practices and he’s done a great job in them. It would be a really good thing for our team if he could be out there. We’re pulling for him. He’s put in the work and hopefully he’s there because he makes us a better team when he is.”
One element of this is the fact that the 49ers typically keep six wide receivers, and there are three — all return-capable guys — who have failed to impress and have shown issues with drops in camp; that’s Richie James Jr., Travis Benjamin and Nsimba Webster. Depending on Hurd or Jauan Jennings’ health, the 49ers could easily put one of them on the 53-man roster, then place them on injured reserve and then bring back one of those three receivers.
The indication from Shanahan and Lynch is that despite the injury concerns, Hurd’s talent is probably worth keeping on the roster. When you look at the other options, that’s not a massive surprise.