The Jacksonville Jaguars have nearly all the pieces on offense a head coach could want for his young, gun-slinging quarterback. They offer a veteran coordinator and quarterback coach, one of the NFL's best running games, a reliable three-down running back, a serviceable offensive line, and a consistent veteran receiver.
But one thing is missing and has been missing ever since Trevor Lawrence's first game under center for the Jaguars: the deep threat.
The Jaguars initially had that threat on the perimeter in DJ Chark, a X receiver with legitimate 4.3 speed. But due to a Week 4 ankle injury that will keep Chark out for the rest of the season, the Jaguars are left without a field stretcher to accompany Lawrence's big arm.
"Yeah, it hurts a little bit," Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer noted on Monday when it came to the offense's lack of over the top speed.
"That’s where Tyron [Johnson] has to come on. The guy that’s really come on is [Jamal] Agnew. If you watch that Miami Dolphin game close, he was open. He had a couple where he pulled away. He’s our best separator right now. But an offense without speed on the outside, like elite speed, that’s the first time I’ve had to deal with that.”
Meyer has emphasized speed at receiver constantly since he took the job in January. And up until Chark's injury, Meyer and the Jaguars had it to a degree. But with Chark out, the Jaguars' starting two receivers are Marvin Jones and Laviska Shenault, neither of whom can be considered a speed threat down the field.
Then there are the backup options, such as slot receiver Jamal Agnew and former Chargers receiver Tyron Johnson. The Jaguars claimed Johnson on waivers before Week 1 due to their need for speed behind Chark, but Johnson has played zero snaps over the last two weeks. And while Agnew has been productive, he doesn't have any sample size for winning downfield with speed.
That creates the question of just what the Jaguars are going to do at receiver, at least over the next 11 games. It is clear the Jaguars are going to add to the position in the offseason, but how can they improve the current edition of their team?
Essentially, the Jaguars have two paths. Either they can hope that a deep threat emerges from their in-house options, more specifically Agnew and Johnson, or they can look for outside help with the trade deadline approaching.
"The thing we don’t have is when DJ [Chark Jr.] went down, do we have that home run hitter on the outside? I think Laviska [Shenault Jr.]’s playing very well. Marvin [Jones Jr.]’s playing really well. We’re just one speed guy short," Meyer said on Monday.
"It might be [Jamal] Agnew, maybe it’s Tyron [Johnson], maybe it’s something else."
The last two words are the key ones in that answer. With the Jaguars in the middle of the season, the only "something else" that could factor into their plans is a trade or some kind of release of a currently rostered player.
Does this mean the Jaguars could be considered a candidate to be a player in the wide receiver market at the trade deadline? There are arguments to be made for both perspectives.
Considering the Jaguars are sitting at 1-5 and need all the draft picks they can keep, one wouldn't exactly look to them as a team that is a "buyer" ahead of the Nov. 2 deadline. The Jaguars as of right now are playing for Lawrence's development and the overall improvement of the team, not for a playoff spot. Giving up picks for a player who may be just a rental in a lost season would be an odd move.
With that said, what better way to help Lawrence improve than to unlock an extra part of his game? Lawrence's downfield accuracy has been impeccable at times, but it is easy for defenses to keep the rookie quarterback from testing them deep due to the weapons the Jaguars have trotted out following Chark's injury. Adding a genuine deep threat Lawrence can connect with could greatly speed up Lawrence's already rapid development.
Whether they are any legitimate options to trade for is another story entirely. The three receivers who make the most sense would be Odell Beckham Jr., Brandin Cooks, and Michael Thomas, but there are issues with all three.
For Beckham, he simply hasn't looked like himself ever since being traded to Cleveland. Quarterback play and injuries have derailed him, but he also hasn't been the same dominant receiver. He is still a speed demon, but there is no guarantee you will get the Beckham of old.
For Cooks, there is the question of whether the Jaguars would want a potential rental. Cooks is under contract through 2022, but his contract gives a team an easy out from a big pay-day to an aging wideout.
As for Thomas, he doesn't exactly fit the criteria of a deep threat or speed receiver. He is one of the best receivers in the NFL, though, and has a close relationship to Meyer dating back to their days at Ohio State.
Will the Jaguars make a move ahead of Nov. 2? The likelihood is no, but there are reasons to believe the Jaguars still want to make a splash and improve the roster ahead of 2022, at least for the sake of Lawrence's development.
If the Jaguars do make a move, though, it appears receiver would be the position to bet on.