For Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver DJ Chark, the 2020 season represents nothing but opportunity.
He has an opportunity to firmly establish himself as one of the NFL's top young wideouts following a terrific 2019 season; an opportunity to prove to the Jaguars he is worth a big-money extension; an opportunity to develop a duo with Gardner Minshew that the Jaguars can build their offense around moving forward. But what Chark also has the opportunity to do is to make Jaguars history.
Last season, Chark was a revelation for the Jaguars as he recorded 73 catches for 1,008 yards and eight touchdowns in his second season as a pro. He became the first Jaguars offensive player to either record 1,000 receiving yards or reach the Pro Bowl since Allen Robinson in 2015, making his dynamic season one of the few bright spots of Jacksonville's rough 2019.
“I think DJ had a tremendous year," Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell said at the NFL Scouting Combine in February. "I think he has only tipped his level of what he can be. He is a tremendous worker, a tremendous kid. I think having a taste of the Pro Bowl for him is only going to make him more hungry.”
If Chark can repeat his success from 2019, he will likely have the best back-to-back receiving campaigns in recent team history. In fact, if he records 1,000 yards in 2021, he will be the first Jaguars wide receiver since Jimmy Smith to record 1,000 receiving yards in consecutive seasons, a feat Smith last accomplished in the 2004-2005 seasons.
In fact, only three Jaguars wide receivers have hit the 1,000 yard mark since Smith recorded 1,023 yards in 2005: Allen Robinson (1,400) and Allen Hurns (1,031) in 2015 and Chark last season. Considering this, Chark hitting 1,000 yards for the second year in a row should be considered a rousing success in the event it happens.
So, what are the odds Chark can write himself into Jaguars history by hitting the 1k mark yet again? With Minshew entering his first season as Jacksonville's full-time starter and Jay Gruden stepping in as Jacksonville's offensive coordinator, the logic should be that Chark will have a decent chance to hit 1,000 yards as long as he remains healthy.
Chark is reuniting with a quarterback he had terrific chemistry with in 2019 and the hope is Minshew will be even better in his second season. A better Minshew would mean big things for Chark, specifically as a big-play threat. Add in the fact that Gruden should be an immense upgrade over 2019 offensive coordinator John DeFilippo, and Chark's arrow should be pointing up in 2020.
"I think that he is playing with a load of confidence right now and that is very exciting. He’s got the skill set with the size, speed and ability to come in and out of cuts," Gruden said in May.
"I think we can do a little bit more with him. I’d like to get him inside and do some more things with him in the slot. But he’s an excellent specimen. And the thing that I have come to know about DJ in the limited time I got to meet him was that he’s hungry. He wants to be great and when you have the athletic qualities that he has and then the desire to be great, he’s going to have a very bright future. Now it is our job to get him acclimated to this offense and get him comfortable where he can go out there and play fast because he is a big, strong, fast, hungry kid and we got to give him the ball.”
Currently, Chark's over/under for receiving yards at DraftKings Sportsbook is 975.5, though Chark was on track to break this figure in Week 14 last season. An ankle injury to Chark during that game slowed him down for the final weeks of the season, limiting his final stat line for the season and making it hard for him to reach 1,000 yards to begin with.
But if Chark could manage to be on a quick pace to reach 1,000 yards last year with the 26th ranked scoring offense, a sixth-round rookie quarterback and a struggling play-caller, then the feeling should be that Chark can do it again in 2020 as long as he remains on the field.
Getting to 1,000 yards receiving is no easy task. If it was, more than three receivers since 2005 would have hit the mark in Jacksonville. But Chark has the skill set, situation and work-ethic to suggest he can be the producer in back-to-back seasons the Jaguars have missed since Smith.