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Jaguars rookie WR Laviska Shenault Jr. quickly becoming team’s x-factor

A jack of all trades, Laviska Shenault has tools to take over an offense.

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

When drafted, Jaguars receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. quickly became one of the team’s most-intriguing players on offense.

Showcasing immense ability as a versatile player while at Colorado, Shenault has already seen a glimpse of what a one-to-one translation of his talents would be in the pros, and he’s not backing down from the pressure.

“I love having the pressure on me and [I] have to, I have no choice but to take advantage of my opportunities,” Shenault told members of the Jaguars media on Wednesday. “So, I like the pressure. I like everything that they’re doing with me and I’m just going to keep taking advantage of it.”

Against the Indianapolis Colts this past Sunday, the Jaguars deployed Shenault in a variety of ways, motioning him often prior to the snap, using him as a decoy to bait the opposing secondary, using him as a wildcat quarterback and, of course, as a receiver both outside and in. Essentially, there wasn’t a position Shenault didn’t play.

“I was ready. I’m always ready and I’m telling you, I love to do that type of stuff, so anytime my name gets called to do something like that, I’m on board with it.”

Shenault finished the game against the Colts with five touches, including three receptions fro 37 yards and a touchdown, along with two carries for 10 yards, one carry coming out of the backfield as the team’s quarterback.

The rookie receiver played in 31/47 (65%) of the team’s offensive snaps, and was seemingly involved in some way, shape or form in most of them.

On one play, Shenault didn’t get the ball, however, he did set up the score. Prior to the snap, the Jaguars brought Shenault in motion to the right side of the offenses’ formation.

At the snaps, Shenault continued into the flat when quarterback Gardner Minshew II pump faked it to the rookie causing the secondary to bite up, allowing third-year receiver DJ Chark Jr. to get behind the defense for the team’s first touchdown of the year.

Plays like that are why the Jaguars are excited about the 6-foot-1, 227-pound Shenault. The receiver agrees, finding ways to help your team win without getting the ball is huge, something he really isn’t used to after be the guy at Colorado.

“I think it’s big. I think it’s real big,” Shenault said. “I don’t have to do too much. I’m saying that because coming from college I had to do a lot, I was doing a lot. So, now I’m here [and] I’m able to do things without having to do too much and great things are still happening.

“It’s good that I’m able to do these other things and get other people open or just to help out any type of way. At the end of the day, I’m not tripping. I want to win and I’m here to do whatever [it takes].”

The Jaguars used Shenault in so many ways likely due to how the receiver was used at Colorado, a weapon, something the rookie is good at, said offensive coordinator Jay Gruden.

“When you have a quarterback, or a running back or receiver - so he’s really all three - it puts a lot of stress on a defense.” Gruden told the media via Zoom on Wednesday. “Even during the week, just having to make them prepare for that look and those types of plays are tough on a defense and they forget about the basic plays sometimes.”

Gruden says that from a mental standpoint, everything Shenault did on Sunday, he did well. Having the ability to digest the information and perform like he did in his first career game at the pro level is something that rookies typically aren’t accustomed to, but the rookie took it in stride, “I was impressed with Laviska.”

“He’s a physical guy in the running game, had some good blocks, had to dig out some safeties in the running game, which nobody sees,” said Gruden. “But when he had the ball in his hands, you could see how explosive he can be.”

On Shenault’s two catches that did not go for a touchdown, he didn’t hit the ground. Instead, he seemed to become an immovable object, something he said in college that he takes pride in, being able to be that physical almost similar to an Anquan Boldin.

“So, being on the move with Laviska around and giving him the ball in unique ways is going to be important,” Gruden remarked on the rookie’s usage. “It’s our job to try to get him some touches and whether it’s three, four or 10, we don’t know what the number is going to be.”

The Jaguars have plenty of weapons in the arsenal, but Shenault could become the team’s x-factor, one of the most important of the bunch.