The Jacksonville Jaguars are in rebuilding mode heading into the 2020 NFL season, with many changes on both offense and defense. Assuming football is even played this fall, nobody expects the Jaguars to be a playoff team, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the team be more competitive than most people assume. The defense has had a complete makeover, and while it will definitely have some growing pains, there is a lot of young talent on that side of the ball. On offense, the team returns a lot of veterans, but has also added some young and exciting playmakers.
One positional group that is particularly intriguing to me is the wide receiver unit. Personally, I feel that the receivers collectively possess a good mix of talent, play-making ability and depth. Apparently the national media disagrees, however (surprise, surprise).
Pro Football Focus listed Jacksonville dead last in its recent wide receiver units rankings. Here is what PFF analyst Steve Palazzolo had to say on the matter:
The Jaguars appeared to have one of the worst groups of receivers in the league heading into 2019, but the emergence of D.J. Chark eased that burden.
“Chark finished with a 75.8 receiving grade, good for 26th in the league, and his 424 yards on deep (20-plus yard) targets ranked seventh. Chark was the only Jaguars receiver to grade above 70.0 last season, so plenty of question marks remain. Dede Westbrook has been a dependable possession option over the last two years, but he ranked just third on the team with 31 first downs a season ago. Chris Conley is another speed threat, and he’s coming off a career-high 775 yards, though his 62.0 receiving grade also represents a career high. Conley dropped 13.0% of his catchable targets, seventh highest in the league.
The Jaguars drafted Laviska Shenault in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft, and he adds a viable weapon who can line up all over the field. Shenault is an after-the-catch monster who still must polish some of his overall game as a receiver, but he has good hands and excellent explosiveness when healthy.
The other player competing for targets is Keelan Cole, who is a nice fourth option given that he’s averaged 15.7 yards per reception in his three-year career.
The Jaguars need a few things to fall into place in order to rise to the top half of the league, including another big step forward from Chark, and Shenault looking like the healthy 2018 version that was a potential top-15 overall pick.”
While Palazzolo praises D.J. Chark and is excited about the potential of rookie wide out Laviska Shenault, the other wide receivers on the roster leave him with something to be desired, although he does note Keelan Cole’s nice career yards per catch average.
I think the wide receiver group may be the most underrated unit on the team, heading into 2020. After dealing with injuries and inconsistencies as a rookie, Chark’s emergence as a true No. 1 receiver last season has both the Jaguars’ brass and fans excited about the future. In 2019, Chark led the team in targets (118), receiving yards (1,008), first down catches (42) and touchdowns (eight). Surprisingly, it was not Chark who led the team in receptions with his 73, it was actually running back Leonard Fournette, who had 76 catches.
Chris Conley had a career high in receptions (47), yards (775), yards per catch (16.5) and tied a career high for touchdowns (five). While his drop rate was way too high at 13 percent, as PFF notes, Conley was a play-maker for the Jaguars at times. If he can improve upon his consistency, he could be a reliable second or third option.
Westbrook is in a similar boat as Conley, where we’ve seen him flash his potential often, but doing so on an every-week basis has escaped him. After a bit of a breakout campaign in 2018, Westbrook regressed somewhat in 2019. He had the same amount of targets (101) and receptions (66), but his yards, touchdowns, yards per catch, yards per game and yards per target were down across the board. Westbrook has caught 159 passes for 1,716 yards and nine touchdowns, while also returning a punt for a score, in three seasons in Jacksonville.
Cole is mentioned in the PFF article, but may be fighting for a role on the field with Shenault and fellow rookie wide receiver Collin Johnson entering the fold. Shenault brings excitement with his versatility, toughness and ability to make things happen with the ball in his hands. Johnson is a likely red zone specialist and possession receiver at 6-foot-6, 222 pounds. Cole found some success as a undrafted rookie free agent in 2017, but has had two down seasons in a row.
I would expect those six — Chark, Conley, Westbrook, Shenault, Johnson and Cole to all make the initial 53-man roster, but the majority of production is likely to come from those first four names.
I understand why the Jaguars are ranked in the bottom tier in the above article, but disagree the unit is in the worst in the league. Have you looked at the rosters of the New York Jets, New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins or Washington Redskins lately? I think the Duval receivers are going to surprise some folks this season (again, that’s if we even get to have a football season).
Of course, the success that the wide receivers have this season is dependent upon the play of quarterback Gardner Minshew II, who flashed as an exciting player as a rookie, but needs to take several steps forward as the full-time starter for the Jaguars in 2020.
What do you think is the most underrated positional group on Jacksonville’s roster in 2020? Vote in the poll and let us know in the comments section.
What is the most underrated position for the Jaguars in 2020?
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