Earlier this week, jaguars head coach Doug Marrone indicated that Chark Jr. would make the trip with the rest of the team, however that has changed and the second-year wideout will remain in Jacksonville to continue treatment.
“I think it’s really close,” Marrone said on Friday. “Basically the swelling [is] down and how we can get him rehabbed faster with the pool. So we made the decision to keep him here to give him a better opportunity to play next week.”
With the team’s best receiver out for the first time this week, receivers such as Keelan Cole, Michael Walker, and newly promoted receiver C.J. Board will be called upon to replace his production. Outside of receivers Dede Westbrook and Chris Conley, the remaining active receivers for the Jaguars have accounted for 20 receptions for 219 yards and two touchdowns.
Outside of Chark Jr. the Jaguars receivers have accounted for 116 receptions for 1,452 yards and six touchdowns. Two out of three of the receivers currently on the team were practice squad players at some point during the season — Michael walker and C.J. Board.
Jaguars offensive coordinator John DeFilippo said on Thursday, the team will “have a plan” if Chark Jr. was not available on Sunday. Chark Jr. has been an integral part of the team’s offense this season, especially with the former LSU Tiger’s connection with rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew II.
“Obviously, DJ [Chark Jr.] is a tremendous playmaker for us,” DeFilippo said on Thursday. “We have a plan whether he plays. We have a plan if he doesn’t play. Obviously, we hope he does play, because he is a guy that can go in there and high point the football and can make a play for us. So like I said, anytime you have a player of that caliber go down it’s not ideal, but at the same time, we are expecting guys to step up and make plays at his spot.”
The team’s plan will likely include Jaguars receiver Keelan Cole, who has not had much of a an opportunity this season — 273 (30%) snaps thus far this season. When asked about the third-year receiver, DeFilippo had high-praise for the seldom-used receiver.
“I’m proud of Keelan,” said DeFilippo. “You watch him play, he plays fast. He can high point the football, too. He can extend his arms and go up and make a play. He is – I don’t want to say deceptively fast, but he covers a lot of ground where it doesn’t look like he’s running fast, but then all of a sudden, he is just rolling.”
Cole finished his rookie season with 42 receptions for 748 yards and three touchdowns. The making of a truly talented football player. However, last season he — along with the entire Jaguars offense —, quickly regressed. Cole was only able to net 38 receptions for 491 yards and a single touchdown.
Without many opportunities this year, the Kentucky-Wesleyan product looks to make a name for himself heading into restricted free agency this spring. Without knowing whether or not he will be on the roster this season, these next three games could determine whether he remains in Jacksonville or is allowed to walk following the season.
“He’s got that long stride and he can roll. So, we are going to use that this week if he is called on to more action. Like I said, we’re expecting all those guys to step up.”