Just how much did the Jacksonville Jaguars miss star wide receiver DJ Chark during Thursday's 31-13 loss to the Miami Dolphins? The question of how Chark sitting out with a chest/back injury would impact the Jaguars' receiver group was answered in a resounding way in the blowout loss to Miami, highlighting once again just how vital Chark is.
Judging by the Jaguars' inability to create big plays in a lopsided loss, Chark's absence mattered quite a bit. Keelan Cole, Laviska Shenault, Collin Johnson, Dede Westbrook all struggled to threaten Miami's defense in the same way Chark does on a weekly basis, while Chris Conley was a disaster whenever he was targeted.
All in all, the Jaguars' receivers were targeted 22 times in the Thursday Night Football loss, resulting in just 14 catches for 117 yards and no touchdowns. This means the Jaguars' receivers recorded just 8.35 yards per catch on Thursday, with an even worse 5.31 yards per target.
“I don’t want to not credit Miami, they did a nice job obviously, but I think anytime you lose someone that’s a leader and just a really good football player and someone where people are going to look at us and say, ‘Hey listen, how do we stop this guy?’ I think it always hurts and then you get the old [saying] ‘we want people to step up and do a better job and kind of make up for it," head coach Doug Marrone said during a media conference on Friday when asked about the impact of Chark's absence.
The lack of Chark on the field to command attention or double teams clearly played a big role against Miami because the typically sharp Gardner Minshew looked lost without his favorite target. The area in which it was most clear that the Jaguars and Minshew missed Chark was when the Jaguars attempted to stretch the field.
Chark is one of the NFL's best receivers at winning deep thanks to his speed, hands and leaping ability, but Minshew didn't have any of that on Thursday. On throws of over 10 yards, Minshew was just 2-of-9 for 34 yards (3.77 yards per attempt) and an interception.
"DJ is a great player. He’s a guy that we love in basically any one-on-one situation. I have a lot of confidence in the rest of the team," Minshew said after the game.
"The guys that we have out there, everyone dressed tonight, Chris [Conley], Keelan [Cole Sr.], Collin [Johnson], Laviska [Shenault Jr.], Dede [Westbrook], everybody can go win. As a group, we just didn’t get it done tonight.”
If the Jaguars are going to prevent a repeat poor performance from their passing offense, they will need Chark back in the lineup to help get the receiving unit back in sync. Chark hasn't seen a ton of targets for the Jaguars this year, but he has been effective when utilized.
In two games, Chark has caught all seven of his targets for 109 yards (15.6 yards per catch) and a touchdown. He leads the team in catch rate, yards per catch and yards per target. Without Chark, Jacksonville simply isn't able to create the big plays they are typically able to. They like their playmakers behind him, but it is clear they simply aren't the same caliber of player.
"We just didn’t make the plays we needed to last night. There’s a lot of things that I’ll be able to talk about or questions I’ll be able to answer, but it always hurts when you lose the top player at that position," Marrone said.
"Whether it be [him or] Brandon at center, but teams do it and it happens throughout the league. You just have to be able to overcome those things and I just felt like we didn’t really have an opportunity to really help our guys because of the way the game was being played, how we got down early.”