Jaguars wide receiver DJ Chark surpassed his touchdown figure as a rookie in 2018 (which was none) with his second catch of the 2019 season.© Bob Self/Staff Photographer Jaguars starting quarterback #15, Gardner Minshew II talks with WR #17, DJ Chark Jr. after a successful pass during drills as the Jacksonville Jaguars went through practice in pads for the first time during training camp at the practice fields outside TIAA Bank Field Monday, August 17, 2020. [Bob Self/Florida Times-Union]
By the early fourth quarter of the second game, Chark had more receiving yards than the 174 he had during his rookie season.
And by the end of week three, he beat his receptions total of 14.
The final numbers for 2019: 73 receptions for a team-high 1,008 yards and eight touchdown receptions.
If Chark can make that kind of progress from his first year to the second year, what’s possible this season, beginning on Sunday at home against the Indianapolis Colts (1 p.m., CBS)?
“We’re expecting great things from him,” said Jaguars coach Doug Marrone on Wednesday.
“It was evident from OTAs last year that he was going to be a great player,” said quarterback Gardner Minshew. “He grew into being one of the No. 1 guys in the league and he will continue to work and get better.”
Chark, who said numerous times last year that he got better once he realized the work required to be a good NFL receiver, isn’t satisfied with those accomplishments.
“I’m my hardest critic,” he said after the Jaguars practiced Wednesday. “Even now I’m my hardest critic. I’m expecting attention from the defense and I’m preparing like I’m going to get attention from the defense. I think I’m a better player. I just have to go out and prove it.”© Jenna Watson/IndyStar Jaguars wide receiver DJ Chark caught eight passes for 104 yards and two touchdowns last season against Indianapolis, at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Chark is one of those rare receivers who is a legitimate deep threat (he tied for fourth in the NFL with 10 pass receptions of 30 yards or longer, three in the opening game against Kansas City) but also is effective as a possession receiver, including going over the middle.
Colts coach Frank Reich, whose defense yielded eight receptions for 104 yards and two touchdowns by Chark at home last season, said it’s why he called Chark “a force in this league.”
“He is an explosive receiver who not only gets vertical and can be a big playmaker, but he has the size and strength to have a big impact in the short and intermediate game, which moves the sticks,” Reich said. “I really admire the year he had last year. He was one of the league’s better receivers.”
Jaguars offensive coordinator Jay Gruden and Minshew both said having a wide receiver who can fill two roles is like getting a great buy-one, get-one special.
“He has the talent to do a lot of different things,” Gruden said. “Vertically, intermediately, in between the hashes, which is critical. A lot of receivers don’t want to go in there, but DJ is fearless in there.”
Minshew said Chark as a deep threat sets up Chark as the reliable third-down target.
“I think it’s huge because you have guys that have the speed to take the top off and it really threatens the defense to where it opens up so much underneath," He said. "I think that’s one of the things that makes him good is [that] they respect him so much deep; he can really carve you up underneath as well.”
But Chark is so much more than size (6 feet 4, 198 pounds), speed and hands. After a rookie season in which 14 receptions for 174 yards and no scores was a massive underachievement for a second-round draft pick, Chark began working with wide receivers coach Keenan McCardell more seriously on their shared craft.
Chark didn’t let up a bit in this season’s training camp.
“He’s one of those guys who’s constantly working on improving,” Marrone said. “You see him on the side with coach McCardell, working on little things, attention to detail. He’s had a really good camp, very productive. His mindset is to go out there and do what he can for the team and work hard.”
Gruden said Chark’s blue-collar approach will serve him well.
“He’s got a great work ethic, which is usually the case for most great receivers,” Gruden said. “You can’t be a lazy or undisciplined wide receiver and be great. You have to have a great work ethic, be in great shape, study the game and study your opponent, which he does. His work ethic is second to none and he’s picked up the offense, mentally. It’s our job to do the best we can to put him in a position where he can have success.”
Chark knows he won’t be sneaking up on defenses this season. But he also knows if he commands more attention, it will open opportunities for veteran teammates Chris Conley, Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook, and rookies Laviska Shenault and Collin Johnson.
“I embrace it,” he said of double coverage, bracketing, cover-2 defenses and other schemes designed to shackle a deep-threat receiver. “I tell guys like Laviska, ‘they are doing that to me … it’s your turn to be one-on-one.'”
However, Chark said he still needs to be productive regardless of what defenses throw at him.
“I still have to get open … that’s my job,” he said. “This year, if you do try to take me out of the game, we have some guys who can really make you pay for it.”
This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: Jaguars wide receiver D.J. Chark brings a working man's approach to a skill position
Source : https://www.msn.com/en-us/sports/nfl/jaguars-wide-receiver-dj-chark-brings-a-working-mans-approach-to-a-skill-position/ar-BB18S7v1