5 Jaguars to watch in 2021 season opener vs. Texans

The Jags will begin their 2021 season in just over 24 hours against the Texans. Here are some players to watch in the process as the Jags will look to beat Houston for the first time in a while.

We’ve made it. As of tomorrow afternoon, Jacksonville Jaguars football is officially back as the team is currently in Houston awaiting their matchup with the Texans. And for the first time in what feels like a very long time, there seems as though there is room for genuine excitement around the facility.

With change comes opportunity, and there has been plenty of change in Jacksonville since the end of the 2020 season. There is a new regime, a new head coach in Urban Meyer, and at long last, there looks to be a franchise quarterback in Trevor Lawrence.

Here are five players to keep a close eye on during the Jaguars’ opener as they try and start things off 1-0.

The Jaguars can’t afford to lose D.J. Chark next offseason

Extending Chark should be a top priority for the Jaguars this season.

Jacksonville has had one constant on offense the past two seasons, despite the revolving door at quarterback: the play of fourth-year wideout D.J. Chark. After a disappointing rookie year in which he made just 14 catches for 174 yards, the former second-round pick out of LSU had a breakout sophomore season.

He registered just over 1,000 yards receiving with eight touchdowns as the favorite target of rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew. Injuries to Minshew in 2020 hurt Chark’s production in Year 3, but he still finished with 706 yards and five touchdowns.

But heading into 2021, he could potentially be looking at his last season in a Jaguars uniform. Chark’s rookie contract is set to expire following the season, and reaching an extension on the star receiver will be a top priority for Jacksonville during the season.

Unsurprisingly, according to Bleacher Report’s Brad Gagnon, Chark is the pending free agent the Jags can’t afford to lose.

This could change if promising 2020 second-round wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. can continue to flourish for the Jacksonville Jaguars, but you still need several strong receiving options for young quarterback Trevor Lawrence.

So again, we’re looking at a 2018 second-rounder in wideout DJ Chark Jr., who put up more than 1,000 yards as a sophomore in 2019. His numbers dipped as he was hampered by injuries in 2020, and he is now entering the final year of his rookie deal.

It’ll be fun to see what Shenault and Chark can do with a talent like Lawrence under center. The Jags owe it to Lawrence to make sure both are around for several seasons to come.

How productive Shenault is this season will certainly play a role in how desperate the team is to bring back Chark. The second-year player impressed in organized team activities and is expected to have a breakout Year 2, much like Chark did.

However, even if Shenault is able to improve on his 600 yards from a year ago, he’s a very different player than Chark, who has three inches on him. Jacksonville needs more than one quality receiver, and bringing Chark back should be a no-brainer.

An extension may not come cheap. It’s a contract year for him, and with the offense expected to take a leap forward, he could increase his value fairly significantly this season. But regardless, with a young quarterback who needs weapons, there’s no excuse to not give Chark a long-term deal.

Poll: Who will lead the Jaguars in receiving in 2021?

With a new franchise quarterback on board, which of Jacksonville’s receivers will be the most productive in 2021?

The quarterback side of the equation has been figured out in Jacksonville. Though we’re yet to see first-overall pick Trevor Lawrence compete in a game, he may already be the most talented passer the franchise has ever had. The question now is, where will he be throwing the ball?

The passing game was one of the areas that suffered the most with a revolving door at quarterback in 2020 between Gardner Minshew II, Jake Luton, and Mike Glennon. Three of Jacksonville’s top-five receivers from a year ago, Keelan Cole, Chris Conley, and Tyler Eifert, are no longer with the team.

Last year’s leader in receiving yards, D.J. Chark, is back after totaling 706 yards and five scores a year ago. But that was a bit disappointing after breaking 1,000 yards during his second season in 2019, and he’s one of the players on the team looking for a major bounce-back this season.

He’s a natural candidate to be the team’s No. 1 receiver, but he won’t claim that spot without a challenge. Second-year receiver Laviska Shenault Jr., who finished third with 600 receiving yards last year and matched Chark’s five touchdowns, has been impressive in organized team activities so far. Some have said he looks like a No. 1 receiver in his own right, and he’ll certainly try to prove that on the field.

These are the two obvious candidates to lead the team in receiving yards, but what of the dark horse candidates? Marvin Jones Jr., a free-agent signing from Detroit, finished with more yards last year (978) than any Jacksonville receiver. He’s 31-years-old, but the production is still there.

Jones will be an important veteran leader for this team, but he simply may not see enough targets throughout the season to compete with Chark and Shenault.

There are also less likely options, like second-year receiver Collin Johnson, who had 272 yards and two touchdowns as a rookie last year, and Jalen Camp, a receiver from Georgia Tech who was taken in the sixth round. But neither will likely see more than rotational action.

Chark and Shenault are the clear candidates to be the most productive receiver on the team next year, and the young duo will certainly play a major role in the years to come. But you also can’t sleep on Jones, who remained productive despite a moribund situation in Detroit.

Which of these three do you think will be the team’s leading receiver? Let us know in the poll below.

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Jimmy Smith says Keenan McCardell couldn’t coach WRs how he wanted to as a Jags assistant

The former Jags receiver said his old teammate Keenan McCardell couldn’t coach Jacksonville’s receivers the way he wanted to.

Former Jacksonville Jaguars receiver Keenan McCardell spent the last four years as the team’s receivers coach, but after head coach Doug Marrone was fired following the 2020 season, McCardell wasn’t retained.

But his former teammate with the Jaguars, fellow star receiver Jimmy Smith (who talked to McCardell when he was a Jags assistant), said that McCardell wasn’t able to coach the receiver group how he wanted to during an appearance on 1010XL Primetime.

“The previous coaching staff didn’t want a No. 1 receiver and I know how bad that bugged Keenan …,” Smith said. “Keenan McCardell was not allowed to coach like he wanted to. Let me say it again. Keenan McCardell was not allowed to coach the receivers the way he wanted to.”

According to Smith, that especially impacted the development of D.J. Chark. The former second-round pick from LSU had a breakout season in 2019 after having one of the league’s worst drop rates as a rookie. He finished with over 1,000 yards, but his play dropped off during his third season in 2020, and he finished with just 706 yards and five touchdowns, three fewer than he netted the year before.

Quarterback play certainly played a role in that, as injuries to starter Gardner Minshew II led to Jake Luton and Mike Glennon starting a combined eight games. But Smith said the way that Marrone wanted receivers to be coached also didn’t do Chark any favors.

“Why are the receivers standing straight up at the line of scrimmage? We know that’s not Keenan,” he said. “We know that’s not the way we played and I know that’s not the way that he wants to coach. Because the route running begins by your stance as a wide receiver. … That’s just like football route running 101.”

“Those who know the game knew that Keenan McCardell was not allowed to coach those receivers and it affected DJ Chark’s development because Keenan was not allowed to coach those receivers the way he wanted to.”

New receivers coach Sanjay Lal is a seasoned veteran when it comes to coaching the position group, though he spent the last season in an offensive analyst role with the Seattle Seahawks. His pedigree speaks for itself, but if Smith is right, it will be crucial that Meyer doesn’t micromanage the group the way the last staff did.

Anthony Schlegel discusses DJ Chark’s approach to criticism

Most fans would say DJ Chark is one of the Jacksonville Jaguars’ top players, which was why it was a bit surprising to see Urban Meyer tell the media that he called out the young receiver earlier this offseason. In a nutshell, the first year-head …

Most fans would say DJ Chark is one of the Jacksonville Jaguars’ top players, which was why it was a bit surprising to see Urban Meyer tell the media that he called out the young receiver earlier this offseason. In a nutshell, the first year-head coach wasn’t happy with the film he saw on Chark last season, which caused him to challenge Chark to become stronger.

“I just didn’t like his size. His strength, I just thought, was way below average, way below what we expect from our receivers, and he was told that,” Meyer said during OTAs. “He’s a big guy that played little last year, and that can’t happen. Guys like [Saints WR] Mike Thomas and [former Florida and NFL WR] Louis Murphy are those big, strong, fast receivers, and he’s got to play big and strong.”

However, instead of taking those comments the wrong way, Chark hit the weight room with intensity and worked his way to 210 pounds, after previously being listed at 200 pounds. And according to strength and conditioning coach, Anthony Schlegel, his approach was relentless and rubbed off on other receivers.

“I saw him just put in work.” Schlegel said this week. “The one thing is you have to be accessible, you have to be open and one of our things is we are open. We’re open in the training room, we’re open in the weight room, we’re open in the nutrition room, so you have to give them everything in your toolbox to increase his value and maximize him. We need him to put on some weight, let’s get bumpy.

“It was him and Terry [Godwin] and Laviska [Shenault Jr.] and then all the other wide receivers started coming in and they just started having competition in the weight room. You create that atmosphere to where they want to be, they want to train.”

This is certainly what fans should want to hear about Meyer, the players, and the staff as it speaks volumes about the atmosphere that’s been created. Then again, with Meyer’s love for the sports performance department, it’s certainly not shocking to see his ways rub off on the team.

With the mentality and mindset he’s taken on these last few months, Chark could be on his way to becoming a Pro Bowler again. That could also get him the contract extension he’s probably looking for, too, as 2021 is the last season on his rookie deal.

Jags WR DJ Chark discusses how mental health awareness has helped him

With it being mental health awareness month, Jags WR DJ Chark is doing his part to explain the benefits of good mental health.

While the players on each respective NFL roster may look superhuman to many, they also deal with some of the issues that normal people do. For Jacksonville Jaguars receiver DJ Chark Jr., the one relatable issue he’s had like many other Americans is the battle with anxiety and depression.

“Growing up my whole life I was always dealing with a lot going on at the same time,” Chark said recently when asked about the importance of mental health month. “So I didn’t really know how to handle life, school, relationships-once I got to college I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression.”

Chark’s battle led him to a sports psychiatrist who was able to help him better deal with his mental health problems through medicine. From that point on, it certainly seems like things have worked out as he became a second-round draft choice, a pro bowler, and a father.

Chark’s success on and off the field is proof that one can overcome the hurdles of mental health issues. As a result, he can define what it exactly means to have good mental health, which isa tool that can be used to encourage others to seek help.

“Positive mental health to me means freedom, being able to think with a clear mind, act with a clear mind,” Chark said. “It helps with communication and being able to make decisions under stress.”

Chark also shared another way he’s been able to overcome mental health issues in addition to medicine — and that’s simply by enjoying time with his loved ones.

“To stay mentally healthy I love to spend time with my loved ones and my family — being able to go home and spend time with my wife, being able to go home to my two dogs and deal with them.”

Seeing players like Chark and others speak on such an issue is huge as anxiety is the most common mental illness amongst Americans according to the ADAA, affecting 40 million adults in the country who are 18 and older. Nearly one-half of the Americans suffering from anxiety also suffer from depression or vice versa. However, with athletes like Chark leading the way in the battle, those numbers could drop drastically over time.

The Charks welcome new daughter into the world

The star Jacksonville receiver and his wife, Chantelle, welcomed their daughter, Mackenzie, into the world on Tuesday.

This has been an exciting offseason for Jacksonville receiver D.J. Chark for a number of reasons. Sure, on the field, the team acquired a franchise quarterback in Trevor Lawrence to throw balls to him and a free agent receiver in Marvin Jones to draw some defensive attention away from him.

But more momentous than any of that, Chark and his wife, Chantelle, welcomed their first child into the world. Their daughter, Mackenzie Deanna Jaliyah “DJ” Chark, was born on Tuesday at the couple’s home.

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“So thankful for these 2 phenomenal ladies!” Chark said. “Watching my wife dominate every day of this 9 month journey has been inspiring. To see you give birth to this beautiful angel in our home is an experience I’ll never forget! You are a true warrior.. and an amazing mom! So happy to be a girl dad! Mackenzie DJ Chark! I’ll love you”

Chark, who was (understandably) one of the few Jags players not in attendance for camp on Wednesday, made headlines before the birth of his daughter by purchasing a diamond-covered pendant for her that’s estimated to be worth around $50,000.

Heading into the final year of his rookie contract, Chark can expect a major payday soon, so it’s a justifiable purchase. He’s expected to take a major leap forward with Lawrence throwing passes to him, and he should see a major extension from the Jaguars if that proves to be the case.

For now though, we wish Chark the best with his expanded family.

A bigger, faster DJ Chark showcases Urban Meyer’s emphasis on sports performance

According to James Palmer, Chark has gained 10 pounds this offseason. However, apparently he has only gotten faster in the process.

D.J. Chark is quickly developing into a receiver who is simply unfair. The 6-foot-4 pass-catcher already had excellent size and a large frame for a No. 1 receiver, and now, according to a report from the NFL Network’s James Palmer, he’s gained 10 pounds, putting his weight at 210.

However, don’t expect the extra muscle to slow him down. Palmer said on Twitter that in spite of the weight increase, Chark has actually gotten faster this offseason.

As Palmer mentions, performance has been a major emphasis for Meyer and his staff since he arrived in Jacksonville.

“We’re having a serious conversation about a facility here, a brand-new facility,” Meyer said in March. “I’ve put together a sports performance team that I expect to be the best in the NFL.”

With struggles at the quarterback position in 2020, Chark saw his production drop off a bit. After cracking 1,000 yards for the first time in his career in 2019, he only had 706 yards and five touchdowns (a decrease from the eight he scored the previous season).

Still, he’s one of the top young receivers in the league in spite of average (at best) quarterback play during his time in Jacksonville. A big receiver with excellent ball skills, a bigger, faster Chark is a scary thought for the AFC South and the NFL at large.

D.J. Chark celebrates becoming a girl dad with some bling

The Jaguars receiver bought a pendant and chain for his daughter, who is due in May. All in all, the piece is estimated to be worth $50,000.

What do you do when you’re an NFL star with over $3 million in career earnings who’s excited about the birth of your first child? Why, you buy some flashy jewelry to commemorate it.

Jacksonville Jaguars receiver D.J. Chark, who is coming off his third season in the league, is set to become a father before the team next takes the field. The 24-year-old and his wife, Chantelle, are expecting their daughter, Mackenzie, in May. And according to a report from TMZ, Chark wanted a special piece ready to celebrate it.

He purchased a diamond-covered pendant that features the engraved message “Mommy and Daddy love you,” as well as her name engraved into the side of the gold ring

The pendant alone contains 15 carats of diamonds and 80 grams of gold, while the chain that goes with it has 150 grams of gold and 20 carats of diamonds. All in all, the piece is reportedly worth around $50,000.

We wish Chark and his family all the best during this exciting time.

Jags Week 12 inactives: QB Gardner Minshew to sit out vs. Browns

The Jacksonville Jaguars released their list of inactives for Week 12’s game, and after being ruled questionable on the final injury report, quarterback Gardner Minshew II (thumb) will miss another game. That means Jake Luton will be serving as the …

The Jacksonville Jaguars released their list of inactives for Week 12’s game, and after being ruled questionable on the final injury report, quarterback Gardner Minshew II (thumb) will miss another game. That means Jake Luton will be serving as the backup to veteran Mike Glennon as the Jags host the Cleveland Browns.

Of course, three of the four players who were ruled out on the final injury report surfaced on the inactives list, too. Those players were cornerback Sidney Jones and receivers D.J. Chark (ribs) and Chris Conley (hip). The other player to be ruled out Friday, Andrew Norwell, was placed on injured reserve Saturday with a forearm injury.

Luckily, the Jags got Laviska Shenault Jr. back at receiver from a hamstring injury that has kept him sidelined a few weeks. The team also promoted receiver Trey Quinn from the practice squad to give them four active players at the position Sunday.

The last notable listed on the inactives list was running back Dare Ogunbowale (hand), who was ruled questionable Friday as a late addition to the injury report. However, the Jags promoted running back Craig Reynolds from their practice squad Saturday to fill his spot, which marks the second-year players first active game as a Jag.