Jacksonville Jaguars offensive coordinator Jay Gruden has seen a lot of talented wide receivers in his time as a coach. From Keenan McCardell to A.J. Green to Keyshawn Johnson to DeSean Jackson, the list goes on.
But do any of them remind Gruden of his newest No. 1 wideout, DJ Chark? When asked about Chark's comparison to past receivers Gruden has been around, the first-year Jaguars offensive coordinator was quick to note that Chark is his own talented, versatile and dangerous wide receiver.
"Not really, he’s a different cat," Gruden said during a video press conference on Friday.
"No, he’s very—he’s still a young player and he’s doing some great things. He can attack defenses a lot of different ways and a lot of different positions, which is good. He’s got a great knowledge of the offense, he can play outside, obviously. We’re moving him around a little bit so he’s doing good inside. He’s just a good all-around player, but he’s also excellent to coach because he knows he has work to do and he wants to be great."
As Gruden would go onto to explain, it is hard to list what weaknesses Chark has in his game, if he does indeed have any. He has size at 6-foot-4, speed for days (4.34 40-yard dash) and hands that can bring down any pass outside of his frame.
These are all traits that helped Chark earn a trip to the Pro Bowl last season, a year in which he became the first Jaguars receiver to record over 1,000 yards receiving since Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns did it in 2015. In a year in which he spent the final few games dealing with an ankle injury, Chark recorded 73 catches for 1,008 yards and eight touchdowns, establishing himself as Jacksonville's top offensive weapon.
"It’s one thing being a talented player with speed and size and have great hands, but it’s another to want to come out early and work hard and really dominate the offense from a mental standpoint," Gruden said.
"So, he’s just got to keep continuing to get better and continuing to work, which he will do. But he’s got a skill set that you want, he’s got the size, he’s got the speed, he’s got the athletic ability, he knows how to run routes, he knows how to set up routes, obviously he can attack the football and run after the catch."
Gruden has made it a point since he took the Jaguars job in January to note that he wants to move Chark around the formation more. When a player is so talented that the offensive coordinator wants to work his scheme around him to find more ways to get the ball thrown that way or to give him favorable matchups, it is a fair indication of the receiver's talent and trust from the coaching staff.
But Chark has more than just trust from Gruden. He also has the trust of starting quarterback Gardner Minshew II, who he developed a solid rapport with last season.
For the Jaguars to improve upon last year's 6-10 record, they will need Minshew to take a step forward in his game. And for Minshew to do that, he needs a reliable No. 1 receiver who can make game-breaking plays. Chark was that receiver for Minshew last season, and he has been that same receiver for Minshew in this year's camp.
"DJ is playing with a lot of confidence and that’s big for him. He’s running really good routes right now, too," Minshew said Friday.
"And I think that kind of goes hand-in-hand with his confidence. He has a lot of belief in himself. I have a lot of belief in him. So really, we want that to be any time he’s one-on-one, he can get the ball.”
Chark proved last season he is a "different cat". Now, the Jaguars' top offensive player, and arguably top player overall, has a chance to continue to ascend up the rankings of the top receivers in the league as he continues to refine his game under Gruden and with Minshew.