Our second entry in the 2020 SB Nation post-draft Q&A series takes a look at an offensive play-maker Jacksonville Jaguars fans should be excited about: Colorado wide receiver Laviska Shenault.
To learn more about the do-it-all receiver, we spoke with Sam Metivier from Ralphie Report — the quintessential Colorado Buffaloes website.
Let’s dive right into our chat:
1. Obviously Shenault was a play-maker and somebody the Buffaloes wanted to get the ball to as often as possible. He lined up all over the field and also took handoffs and jet sweeps. In your opinion, what is the best way to utilize Viska and why?
Samuel: Laviska Shenault just needs the ball in his hands. He’s a natural receiver who excels after the ball, mostly because he’s such a powerful runner as a 225-pound guy with 4.4 (40-yard dash) speed. An underrated part of his play-making ability is his elusiveness and vision; it’s not as obvious as when he runs over a defender on a power run, but he’s great at making someone miss, particularly on slant routes. He can side-step or spin out of that tackle against overmatched cornerbacks, often turning a would-be seven-yard gain into a chunk play.
None of this is to say he needs the ball on screen passes and jet sweeps to create plays. He’s not Denard Robinson, Jags fan. He does need work on his route running, but he’s a natural receiver who excels at making catches in traffic. He’s a huge target and has sure hands. Shenault is probably best as an intermediate option, mostly running slants and crossing routes, because he can turn those catches into big gains. He’s underrated as a deep ball threat, although he doesn’t have the pure speed to take the top off the defense.
2. The biggest concern about Shenault is durability. He’s obviously a tough player who tries to play through the pain, but should Jaguars be worried about his availability?
Samuel: Honestly, yes. He takes a lot of hits because of his running style and those muscle injuries add up over time. He’s going to play through injuries but you can tell when he’s hurting. There’s a good chance Colorado overworked him, especially in 2018, and that 15-plus touches per game were just too much for him. If you want optimism, it’s that he’s fully healthy after having surgery for a core injury after the NFL Combine. Maybe he’s fully healthy and he just had some fluky injuries pile up over those two seasons. Whatever the case, it should help him to have a more limited role, fewer than 10 touches per game.
3. After a lot of turmoil in the past couple of seasons, the Jaguars put a heavy emphasis in this draft on high-character guys. What kind of locker room guy are the Jaguars getting — leadership traits, humbleness, is he a good teammate, etc.?
Samuel: Laviska is very much a high-character guy. He’s humble and shy, and might not give you good quotes, but he carries himself with quiet confidence that’s easy to appreciate. Definitely a lead by example player. He played through those injuries because he wanted to lead the Buffs to a bowl game (CU finished 5-7 all three seasons he was there). Jacksonville is getting someone with a strong sense of purpose in life.
4. In addition to the injuries, it has been mentioned that shaky quarterback play may have caused Shenault’s stats and production to slip somewhat (he actually played in two less games in 2018 compared to 2019, but had 30 more catches, 247 more yards and two more touchdowns as a sophomore versus his junior campaign). Is this true? What would you say caused the decline year-over-year, outside of injuries?
Samuel: The drop-off from 2018 to 2019 was due to a number of reasons. For one, Colorado changed offensive coordinators and went from the spread to a run-heavy pistol offense. Teams also realized that he was the heart of CU’s offense, so they devoted all resources to containing him. This meant double-teams and shifting zone coverage towards his side; Nebraska even interfered intentionally rather than let him go for the ball. With all that attention on him, the coaches thought Shenault was more valuable as a decoy to get his teammates open. Inconsistent quarterback play wasn’t the main reason, but (Colorado quarterback) Steven Montez being erratic didn’t help at all.
5. Do you have any favorite plays or favorite games from Shenault? Why?
Samuel: If there’s any one play that shows off both his running ability and his commitment to his team, it’s a fourth-down run against Stanford. Colorado needed the first down to win that game, everyone knew where the ball was going, and Shenault put his head down to truck the defender in his way.
His best game was probably in 2018 against Nebraska, when he had 12 touches for 182 yards and two scores, basically winning the game by himself. He had caught two deep passes in traffic, power ran for a short touchdown and key first downs, and made two clutch catches to set up his game-winning 40-yard touchdown catch.
6. Anything else Jaguars fans should know about Shenault?
Samuel: If Shenault stays healthy, he’s going to be someone Jags fans will be so proud to have on the team. He was beloved at CU and I hope y’all love him as much as we did.
Thank you to Sam for his in-depth analysis, and for shedding some light on what exactly the Jaguars are getting from Shenault, the talented Colorado play-maker. Be sure to follow Ralphie Report on Twitter for more insights.