Jaguars Hopeful That Others Can Follow DJ Chark’s Sophomore Year Example
Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver DJ Chark had a breakout season in 2019, establishing himself as one of the best big-play threats in the AFC. But one year before that, he was a rookie struggling to adapt to the NFL.
Chark, the 61st overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft, was brought to the Jaguars to give them a height/weight/speed specimen on the perimeter, but he didn't make much of an impact early on. In 11 games as a rookie, Chark caught only 14 passes for 174 yards, and was targeted only 32 times. He struggled to find the field, but also had issues with drops and ball security as a ball-handler.
But 2019 was a complete flip of the script for the athletic 23-year old wideout. He caught 73 passes for 1,008 yards and eight touchdowns, the best season a Jaguars wide receiver has had since 2015. He joined former Jaguars' wide receiver Allen Robinson as the only players 23-or-younger in team history to post at least 1,000 receiving yards in a single season, a remarkable achievement considering his rookie season.
Chark played so well in 2019 that he earned a Pro Bowl nod as an alternate, becoming the first Jaguars' offensive player to reach the Pro Bowl since Robinson in 2015.
“I think DJ had a tremendous year," general manager Dave Caldwell said Tuesday at the NFL Combine. "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.”
But Chark did more than give the Jaguars a bonafide top receiving threat in 219. He also set the example for other NFL players who are seeking to take leaps in their sophomore seasons.
For the Jaguars, this can apply to several players. Defensive end Josh Allen is already a Pro Bowl player, while Jawaan Taylor has solidified himself as the right tackle of the future after a rookie season in which he played 100% of the team's offensive snaps, but other members of the team's 2019 draft class can still benefit from having a Chark-like ascension next season.
"We are actually looking for some of our rookies last year to kind of take the jump that we always talk about," Caldwell said. "Josh Oliver and Quincy Williams with an offseason, they need to take the jump and do what DJ did last year for us."
Oliver and Williams, the team's two third-round selections in 2019, had incomplete rookie seasons due to injuries and the transition to the NFL. Oliver played only four games and caught three passes for 15 yards due to a training camp hamstring injury that sidelined him for two months and then a back injury in Week 11 that ended his season.
Williams entered the season as the team's starting weakside linebacker, but it was clear he needed time to learn the position after playing a different position in college at Murray State. He appeared in 11 games as a rookie, starting eight, and collected 48 tackles and two tackles for loss.
"Quincy from a mismatch standpoint, from a game-planning standpoint, Quincy can do a lot on third down, whether it is blitzing, covering a back, covering a tight end," Caldwell said. "He basically played safety in college.”
Chark's emergence was a big storyline for the Jaguars in 2019 and has set the team up well in terms of having a playmaker on offense to head into 2020. The hope is that in the future, other players can follow his example and blossom as sophomores. He has set the standard. Now, it is up to others to set their own.