The 49ers will keep Jalen Hurd. There’s no question the rookie wide receiver, taken in the third round out of Baylor this spring, will play for the Niners this season and not be among the roster cuts Saturday.
The only question is, when will he make his regular-season debut?
Hurd made a strong early impression in training camp and the exhibition season by playing a physical style and using his body (6-foot-5, 226 pounds) to out-battle defensive backs and run through tackles. The former 1,200-yard running back for Tennessee in 2015 (before transferring to Baylor and changing positions) is a punishing ballcarrier.
Plus, Hurd is versatile, with Kyle Shanahan using him in every wide receiver position, in the backfield and as a tight end.
In exhibitions, Hurd caught three passes for 31 yards and two touchdowns.
But Hurd may miss at least the first week of the regular season because of a back injury, says Shanahan. Hurd first hurt his back in joint practices against the Broncos. The injury – first described as stiffness – has worsened.
“It’s a little more serious than we thought,” said Shanahan, after the 49ers lost 27-24 to the Chargers in the summer’s final exhibition game to finish at 3-1. “We still don’t know for sure.”
Shanahan said initially the 49ers believed Hurd would be ready to play the regular-season opener at Tampa Bay on Sunday, Sept. 8, but now that doesn’t seem likely.
As Chris Biderman of the Sacramento Bee reported, the 49ers aren’t expected to put Hurd or fellow wideout Trent Taylor on injured reserve. Taylor is expected to return from injury in a few weeks. So, the 49ers may be forced to carry as many as seven wide receivers for the opener against the Bucs, with just four available to play.
It now appears Marquise Goodwin, Dante Pettis, Deebo Samuel, Jordan Matthews, Hurd and Taylor would be the top six, with Kendrick Bourne and Richie James Jr. in a duel for the final spot. James had a terrific summer, leading the team with 12 catches for 118 yards. Bourne had a TD catch vs. the Chargers Thursday and averaged 14.5 yards per his six receptions in the exhibition games, but also was more inconsistent than James.
The 49ers' season opener vs. the Bucs Sept. 8 is set for 1:25 p.m. (PDT).