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Laviska Shenault, Jr. to have bigger role with Jaguars in 2022?

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The Jaguars will be heading into the 2022 season with some uncertainty at one of its key positions — punt/kick returner. With wide receiver Jamal Agnew continuing to nurse a season-ending hip injury from last year, head coach Doug Pederson has solicited help from a number of players, including former second-round selection wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr.

Shenault, heading into his third season with the team, is coming off of a down year due to a variety of reasons, including the team’s previous coaching staff, and simply poor play that surrounded the offense as a whole last year. In 2021, Shenault caught 63 passes for just 619 yards and 0 touchdowns on the year.

This came just one year after Shenault posted 600 yards on 58 receptions with a respectable five touchdowns caught in 2020. Shenault also suffered from drops; he had 10 this past season after posting just three the year previous.

Now, it appears that Shenault is looking to expand his toolbox a bit, becoming a credit to the team in a different way, returning punts and kicks during the team’s voluntary Organized Team Activities, something Pederson says Shenault was all for.

“He came to us,” said Pederson when asked about Shenault as a possible returner. “This was a couple of weeks ago. I just walked up to him on the field and just asked him if he’s ever done it and he’s like, ‘Oh yeah, I’ve done it before’ and this and that and I said, ‘Why don’t you just get back there?’ So, we had a little conversation on the field, and he’s been good. He’s embraced it. He’s such a big, powerful guy, that’d be an ideal spot for him obviously to help this football team as well.”

Shenault isn’t the only player that is expected to handle some of those duties in the event that Agnew isn’t ready to go, either. Right now, the team has multiple players involved, including fifth-round running back Snoop Conner, getting attention at the kick returner position.

Still, it’s early and everything can change as the team progresses through the offseason, Pederson stated.

“We’re working about eight to ten guys back there between punts and kickoff returns. That’s an area that we have to improve obviously. We know Jamal [Agnew] can handle it, but at the same time, we have to come away [with other options],” said Pederson. “Christian [Kirk]’s been back there a little bit too. I’m just thinking of some of the guys that are there. But it’s a position that we have to make sure that we have, if Jamal can’t go to start the year, that we have confidence in the next person.”

If there was one position the Jaguars were well-equipped with last season it was the return specialist group, with Agnew leading the way as one of the best in the league.

In just 10 games, Agnew returned 11 punts for 74 yards, while returning 22 kicks for 525 yards and a touchdown. He also added a record-tying 109-yard missed field-goal kick return for a touchdown last year against the Arizona Cardinals.

With a slew of potential options, the Jaguars will hope a player such as Shenault, who has a knack for breaking tackles in open space, could be a fill-in, if need be. That will allow him to become more of a versatile player, while giving Jacksonville more time for Agnew to return to play, allowing him to be the best he can be for a team that desperately needs a spark right out of the gate.