Versatile rookie Laviska Shenault has given Jaguars offense spark

Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. (10) catches a pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts, Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Gary McCullough) (Gary McCullough, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Is that really the Jaguars offense we’re looking at?

Through the first two games of the season, the Jaguars are the 11th-ranked scoring unit in the NFL. That’s a welcome sight considering the years of Blake Bortles and even last year’s stagnant offense under coordinator John DeFilippo.

There are a lot of reasons for the improvement. The offensive line has played better, and Gardner Minshew has taken his game to a new level. But consider the X-factor — rookie receiver Laviska Shenault.

His ability to do so many different things has helped to add a new dimension to the Jaguars offense as the team heads in to Thursday night’s primetime game at home against Miami (0-2).

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When the Jaguars drafted Shenault in the second round out of Colorado last April, the team expected he would play a big role in the offense. The Jaguars have done a great job of finding creative ways to get him the ball.

Through two games Shenault is second on the team in rushing yardage, not something that many wide receivers can claim because being able to run the ball the way he does is not a skill many wide receivers have.

“The one thing, the rare thing for him is running between the tackles. I mean, he ran over a guy last week and he’s a physical runner with the ball in his hands,” said offensive coordinator Jay Gruden. “But he’s a valuable part of our offense. We just can’t put too much on him because we want to keep him around for 16 weeks and many, many years after this.”

Having players like Shenault on the offense allows Gruden to have fun with his play designs. Through two weeks, the Jaguars have lined Shenault up at wide receiver, in the wildcat and at running back. And he has done all of this while the Jaguars coaches say they have tried not to put too much on his plate.

“Yeah, it is fun. He’s a great kid, number one. He works his tail off and he likes the attention. He likes the ability to move around. You know, being a young player, we can’t put too much on his plate right now,” Gruden said. “I still want him to play fast and still learn the nuisances of being a wide receiver, a very good receiver first. But to just sprinkle a few plays with him in the backfield and doing some different things with him.”

Shenault’s ability to do so many different things on the field has already impressed his teammates.

“Laviska is doing really well. I think one of the things that’s a testament to his work [is] being able to know all those different spots,” Minshew said. “And then, it’s a testament to our coaching staff being very creative and just trying to get him the ball in different ways. It’s fun to see each week what they come up with and how we can include him in different ways.”

About the Author:

Jamal St. Cyr is an award-winning sports anchor who joined the News4Jax sports team in 2019.