MOBILE, Ala. – Keenan McCardell doesn't bother hiding his excitement.
He didn't hide it while talking to Jaguars wide receivers coach Jerry Sullivan at a 2016 Reese's Senior Bowl practice late Tuesday afternoon, telling the veteran coach how impressed he was with the Jaguars' young receivers duo – and he didn't hide it talking to jaguars.com this week, either.
Has he seen them? Does he like what he sees?
Yeah, McCardell has seen them. He has seen Allen Robinson. He has seen Allen Hurns.
And McCardell absolutely, positively likes what he sees. In fact, half of the best receiving duo the Jaguars ever had was more positive than that.
"I like them – I like them a who-o-o-o-ole lot," McCardell said under gray, threatening skies at Fairhope High School Tuesday. "They're doing the right things. They're working hard. They've got a coach who's pushing them, and you know what? I like that on Sundays that they go out and compete.
"They go out and compete like me and Jimmy used to do."
Now, really, how cool is that? Here's the answer:
It's cool. It's really, really, really cool.
I mean, here we were Tuesday on a high school football field in Southern Alabama. Senior Bowl practice had ended, and half of the NFL was running for cars to avoid the rain – and McCardell was stopping to talk about Hurns and Robinson. And not only that, he was excited about it.
There's a connection there, between these two generations of Jaguars wide receivers. McCardell knows it – and he's proud of it.
So, yeah, it was cool on Tuesday to hear McCardell talk about how Hurns and Robinson reminded him on some level of he and Jimmy Smith, who as Thunder (McCardell) and Lightning formed the best receiving duo in team history from 1996-2001.
It was cool – and accurate, too.
Not that Hurns and Robinson are exact duplicates of McCardell and Smith. That's not fair to any of the four receivers involved – and it's way premature. Smith, after all, was a Hall-of-Fame-level player of rare size, strength and speed who had nine 1,000-yard receiving seasons, and McCardell … well, the man caught more passes than all but 20 players to play the game. Ever.
Thunder and Lightning did it as well as any duo ever – and they did it a long time.
Robinson and Hurns? They are coming off a remarkable breakout season in which they both had 1,000 yards receiving and double-digit touchdowns, a feat Smith and McCardell never accomplished. They deserve the chance to grow into who they will be without constant comparisons to Smith and McCardell.
But on one level – a very real level – McCardell said there absolutely is a similarity, and it is on that level that McCardell said he relates to the duo.
"They go out and do what they have to do," McCardell, wide receivers coach at the University of Maryland from 2014-2015, said. "That's the thing I enjoy. It doesn't matter if the odds are against them, or if they're in their favor. They go out and show people how good they are."
McCardell then delivered the money quote.
"They have a chip on their shoulder," he said.
Which you and Jimmy did, too …
"No doubt," McCardell said. "We both had chips on our shoulders, to prove to people we belonged. We were in a small market, and nobody really knew us. That's what those guys are doing."
McCardell was asked if he felt a connection to Robinson and Hurns.
"No doubt," he said. "They play the position. You look at the work and see what they're putting in and how they're putting it in and what they're doing. It's not all flash. They do the dirty work and they do it all. That's what's good about what I see. They do the stuff people don't see them doing. I like what I see from those guys."
What does McCardell's assessment mean? In the big picture, who knows? Just because McCardell likes them doesn't mean Hurns and Robinson are destined for the Hall of Fame. And there's no question the Jaguars' offense has improving to do to match the success of the 1990s.
Still, there's something that feels correct about McCardell being a fan of Robinson and Hurns. Like Hurns and Robinson, he was a pro. More than that, he was a player who worked for, earned and appreciated every second of success he had in the NFL. He was oh-so-easy to root for because he was as driven as he was good – and he was very, very good.
Anyone who has been around Robinson and Hurns will tell you that last sentence describes them, too, so does it feel right for McCardell to feel a connection with this new duo of Jaguars receivers?
Darned right it does.
Has he seen them? Does he like it? Darned right he has.
And if you've been following this team a while, something about that feels really, really cool.