The growth Jacksonville Jaguars receiver DJ Chark Jr. from year one to year two was astronomical. While he was selected with the idea of a No. 1 receiver in mind given his size, speed and playmaking ability. Going form just a special teams player to a special player, takes hard work and dedication, and it appears, heading into year three, that’s paying off.
Much of that growth coincided with yet another special Jaguars story line. The growth of a sixth-round pick rookie quarterback, who barely seemed roster-able during the preseason, to a player that has the attention of the entire nation thanks in part due to his play, and in part due to his infectious personality.
The Minshew-Chark combination was something to watch. Chark would go on to lead the team with 1,009 yards on 73 receptions in 2019, to go along with a eight receiving touchdowns on the year. While he did begin the season without much respect given to him, by the end, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
“Towards the end of the year, I saw more cover two to my side or two-man, or double coverage or brackets, things like that. And I expect that again this year. I feel like that’s a sign of respect. So, I embrace it,” Chark told members of the media via Microsoft Teams shortly after practice today.
While Chark did receive the attention he demanded last season, he set out this offseason to gain even more experience, getting better in preparation for - what appears to be - the most important year of his career.
“I think I’ve gotten way better; I have way more confidence, I know what to expect,” said Chark. “Week 1 last year, I was excited to finally be a starter, I wasn’t expecting to have the game that I had Week 1. This year is kind of different, you know. I’m expecting the attention from the defense, so I’m preparing like I’m going to get the attention from the defense. I think I’m a better player, I’ve just got to go out and prove it.”
Throughout training camp, Chark was far and away the team’s best receiver among a group that appears, at first glance, to be the team’s deepest, and most-talented unit.
The connection he and Minshew appeared to have last season has grown even more this season, and now, the team’s starting quarterback has sealed his role as a captain of the team, and of the Jaguars’ offense, something that Chark says is a “big jump.” The vote of confidence from the team means the skies’ the limit.
“[It’s been] just from confidence of filling in, to just being his team—being the captain. I think that’s a big jump because you know that the guys in the locker room support you and they want you to succeed. [As] opposed to wishing that somebody else was quarterback and things like that,” Chark said of Minshew’s captain status.
“So, I think that’s the biggest thing that transfers on the field—translates to the field because when you’re dropping back, everybody on the team wants you to succeed. So, I think that’s the biggest thing and the confidence that he has.”
A week one matchup against the Colts, Chark knows how the team might face him. The aforementioned cover-two defense will be in full effect. While the team’s No. 1 receiver knows he could get taken out of the game due to coverage, he’s confident his teammates, and receiver room the team has build, specifically rookie second-round receiver Laviska Shenault.
“But I tell guys like LaViska [Shenault Jr.], ‘You know if they are doing that to me, that means it’s your turn to be one-on-one. So, it’s your turn to do your thing.’ But either way, we’re at this bracket, double cover, I see I have to get open, that’s my job. But hopefully LaViska can make it a little easier for me,” said Chark.
“But we have a lot of veterans in the offense, so I think this year the difference is if you do try to take me out of the game, we have some guys that can really make you pay for it. We just have to do it.”