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Allen Hurns is the most improved player on offense in 2015

Blake Bortles? Allen Robinson? Nope. Allen Hurns is the most improved player on the Jaguars offense in 2015.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Allen Hurns was the most improved player on offense for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2015. That might seem like a hot take in light of Blake Bortles setting team passing records and Allen Robinson establishing himself as one of the NFL's premier receivers, but hear me out.

Blake Bortles had a very encouraging year I won't try to dispute this. But most improved? Eh.

He saw a massive jump in volume of passes and was aided by a great group of skill players. Outside of all of this, he also still struggled with being responsible for too many sacks and turning the ball over, both big weaknesses in his rookie season. This doesn't take away from the season he had, but I wouldn't say he was the most improved player.

Allen Robinson had the best season out of any player on the Jaguars offense, but he was also a second-round pick who had shown flashes of being a star in his rookie season. If it weren't for injuries and a very stagnant passing game around him in 2014, I don't think the jump in production would have been as massive as it was. Robinson took his game to a new level, but we knew he was capable, if not likely, of doing so.

But Allen Hurns, he showed something different from Bortles and Robinson. He went through a transformation. He broke through what was a perceived ceiling from his rookie season and did so with a vengeance.

The argument for Hurns' numbers taking a jump can be argued the same way that Bortles and Robinson's numbers were; A higher volume passing game that was simply better than the year before. But Hurns is still a different case from Robinson and Bortles.

He turned a major weakness from his rookie season into a major strength in 2015. And in doing so, he changed what his role with the Jaguars should be going forward, and he earned a lot of respect around the entire NFL.

How did he do all of this? Well, I went through every one of Hurns' targets from 2014 and 2015 and compared them to find out.

I sorted them out by several categories: catchable targets, receptions, failed catches, receptions of 20 yards or more, touchdowns, third down catchable targets, and third downs converted.

I defined catchable targets as targets that he had a legit chance to turn into a reception without some superhuman effort. The ball being thrown in his general direction but over his head, for example, would not count as a target.

As for third down targets, I counted all catchable targets that gave him a chance to convert for a first down. For example, being thrown a pass one yard past the line of scrimmage on a third-and-10 would not count towards this total unless he converted it -- because if you can convert something like that you deserve credit for the effort.

All in all, these numbers will show display both Hurns efficiency and the amount of explosive plays he created.

2014 season

Here is how Hurns charted out for the 2014 season by these categories

Catchable targets Receptions Failed catches 20+ yard receptions TDs Third down catchable Third down conversions
62 51 11 11 6 14 6

Overall, the final efficiency rate for both his overall targets, receptions, and his third down target and third down conversions relations also come out to 82% overall and 43% on third down.

Comparable to his overall targets, Hurns did not have a huge drop problem. 11 failed catches are something you'd like to see lowered a bit, but he still created some explosive plays in a bad offense.

A lot of these failed catches were also examples of him simply overthinking on the field. It wasn't a case of stone hands or bad technique, it was mental. Which is understandable for a rookie who happened to be an undrafted free agent.

And despite of this kind of plays, Hurns showed improvement in his focus later on in the season and began to convert a lot more explosive plays, or plays of at least 20 yards.

With that said, a much more concerning number to me was that almost all of Hurns' failed catches came on third down targets where he could have possibly converted for a first down.

I think a problem that too many make when charting players and statistics is they do not closely enough examine the human nature of the player. It is the same thing with any arguments against being "clutch" or "momentum".

Personally, I don't think you can take away the human element from football when analyzing it. It's why I believe in players who are "clutch" and why I believe in "momentum". The players are not programmed robots. Their play will fluctuate with the situation.

And in 2014, Hurns' play fluctuated on third downs. Whether he pressed too much or he was a victim of overthinking or whatever, there were a number of times where he failed to come through.

This was not the case in 2015, however.

2015 season

Catchable targets Receptions Failed catches 20+ yard receptions TDs Third down catchable Third down conversions
78 64 14 17 10 26 18

While Hurns struggled in moving the chains in critical situations in 2014, he excelled in 2015. His overall catch rate stayed the same at 82% despite an increase in volume, but his conversion rate on third down targets jumped up from 43% to nearly 70%.

If you want to see just how clutch Hurns was on third downs in 2015 compared to 2014, there's this nugget...

In 2014, Hurns only converted two or more third downs in a single game once. In 2015 he did it 6 times.

Hurns made noticeable improvements in his focus, his toughness across the middle, and his overall consistency.

He made difficult catches seem routine. Catches that you might have held your breath on when they went his way in 2014, he caught. It got to the point where you rooted for him to get the ball on critical downs. You can think of that incredible game winning touchdown against Buffalo, or one of the many late game drive-extending catches, or any other play.

He became the guy in clutch situations. In a sport that is driven by so much human emotion and where so much hinges on coming through in critical situations, there is almost no bigger honor then being deemed as the go to guy.

Because of his breakout 2015 season, Hurns has solidified his place as a starting wideout for the Jaguars. He's set himself up for a contract extension sooner than later. He also showed that he has the ability to improve upon weaknesses, and turn them into strengths.

Allen Hurns became a clutch player in 2015. That is all there is to it. And that is why he was the most improved player on the Jaguars offense.