JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A breakout season for DJ Chark isn’t going to change him, but it will change how other young receivers look at him.
Going to the Pro Bowl in his second season and developing a rapport with quarterback Gardner Minshew should position Chark to take another step in his growth process. Could back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons and an increased role as a leader be in store for him?
“The way I view leadership is a little different. I don’t really like being the guy that appoint myself to leadership. I feel like real leaders shouldn’t always want to be the leader, does that make sense,” Chark said.
“But I understand the situation that I’m in. So, I understand that, you know, young guys come in, they look at the roster, they realize that, ‘hey, I’m in the room with a Pro Bowl receiver.’”
After an offseason of working out with Minshew and other Jaguars players, even in limited capacities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Chark thinks that the offense has potential to be better than most expect. Chalk that up to Minshew’s comfort in offensive coordinator Jay Gruden’s system and even a young receiving corps should feel confident that things should work out well.
At 27, Chris Conley, in his sixth season in the league, is the most experienced Jaguars receiver. Jacksonville has four rookies, including second-round pick Laviska Shenault, a pair of fourth-year players in Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook. The remainder are second or third-year players.
“The chemistry showing on the field. This [is] the most connected I felt to the offense and to the players on offense in a long time,” Chark said. “So, I think with the addition of Coach Gruden being a head coach [in the past], you know, knowing how to get his guys ready, knowing the strengths the weaknesses of his players. I think we’d be in pretty good shape.”
He’s confident heading into 2020, but don’t expect to see a far different version of Chark this year. The way he looks at it, Chark is still learning and growing and has a long way to go. He plans on trying to cull more and more from receivers coach Keenan McCardell, a former Jaguars receiver who became one of the best in franchise history.
“But honestly, I’m still looking at Coach McCardell because he’s done it multiple times. So, I’m looking at Coach McCardell as a leader for me. And then, also, I’m still looking at things that Chris Conley do well. Things that [Keelan] Cole do real things that Dede [Westbrook] do well. And I’m just, you know jotting everything down and trying to make myself a better player.”
Chark, a second-round pick from LSU in 2018, had a nondescript rookie season with quarterbacks Blake Bortles and Cody Kessler throwing him passes. He had 14 receptions for 174 yards and no touchdown catches, not numbers commensurate with his draft position. In 2019, it clicked for Chark. He had 73 catches for 1,008 yards and eight touchdowns, and did the bulk of that catching passes from Minshew, a rookie.