The Jacksonville Jaguars entered the 2019 season with question marks at the wide receiver position. No true number one option seemed to be on the team. The entire group was mediocre at best. Furthermore, the unit was ranked at the bottom of the NFL entering the season. Deservedly so, based on the unit’s performance last season. The unit was often criticized for their inability to create separation and to reel in passes at critical times.
My how times have changed after three games. With the emergence of rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew II, the Jaguars now have a receiving corps. It’s a group that has done more than just flash through the first three games. And the group is being led by a second-year speedster from LSU, D.J. Chark. Not Dede Westbrook.
D.J. Chark Becoming the Number One Option in Jacksonville Jaguars Receiving Corps
D.J. Chark Improvements
Chark had more downs than ups his rookie year, which included dropped passes and fumbles. He also suffered from a mild case of “Alligator Arms” (keeping his arms close to the body to brace for impact). Chark possessed the speed to get downfield but lacked the physicality needed to create separation from a defender. In 2018, he was nothing more than a special teams player.
Fast forward to 2019 and Chark has developed into the playmaker for the Jaguars. What caused the sudden change in Chark? Possibly a multitude of things, including an upgrade at quarterback. Also, a year under his belt to adapt to the speed of the game certainly helped. But the one thing that stands out is that Chark has the work ethic to be the number one receiver in Jacksonville. He has the desire to stand out among a group that many naysayers wrote off before the season began.
Heading into the season, Chark was somewhat of an afterthought and he was destined to have a complementary role to Westbrook. However, through the first three games, Chark has been much more. Currently, he leads the team in receptions (15) and yards (277). However, his biggest impact has been his ability to make big plays and to find pay dirt. Chark leads the team with three touchdowns and has been both a downfield threat and the go-to receiver for the rookie quarterback.
Chark’s speed and size (6’ 4”) have made him a big-play scoring threat. That’s something the Jaguars’ front office had hoped for when taking him in the second round (61st pick overall) of the 2018 NFL Draft. Working with Jaguars legend and current wide receivers coach Keenan McCardell, Chark is in the process of polishing up his game and earning snaps on offense. It is an ongoing process that is already showing dividends.
Last Word on D.J. Chark
Can he maintain this pace? The Jaguars certainly hope he can get close. Chark has been a welcome surprise so far, and it will take a group effort to continue his feeding frenzy of 2019.
Moving forward, the biggest improvement must come from the development of the running game. In order for Chark and the receivers to thrive, the running game has to be more productive. Without that, the play-action pass will not be effective and the windows for completions will shrink. Chark now has a target on his back and will be part of the opposing defensive schemes. Look for more double teams that could open up opportunities for other receivers. Adjustments and scheme will be made, but that is up to the coaches to plan for and for him to execute.