As the offseason approached, Jaguars wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. faced a challenge from new head coach Urban Meyer. After an exceptional 2019 season in which he crossed 1,000 yards, he totaled just 706 yards last season as his catches also declined. Ahead of the mandatory minicamp in June, Meyer was frank that Chark needs to perform better in 2021.
“Yeah, he didn’t play well last year, and obviously his first year he was really good,” Meyer said in June. “I didn’t like his size, his strength, I just thought it was way below par, way below what we expect from our receivers. He was told that and the best thing about DJ is that he approached him and hit him real hard. [He] gained seven pounds of muscle, he’s playing a much more physical game, he’s a big guy who played little last year and that can’t happen.
“Guys like Mike Thomas and Louis Murphy, those big strong, fast receivers, and he has to play big and strong, and he can now because he’s big and strong. So, ironically, I just had a good meeting with him as we walked off the pitch. We cannot lose the strength and power gains he has made in the offseason. And he’s committed to doing it this summer.
In an appearance on “Good Morning Football” Thursday, Chark responded to Meyer’s challenge. He said Meyer, who previously coached Illinois State, Colorado State and Notre Dame wide receivers, is very involved when it comes to coaching receivers.
“He’s a great receiver,” Chark said on “Good Morning Football.” “He’s pretty much in our boardroom more than anyone. He is very strict and he has a vision for us. He always gives us stuff and stuff and sound bites that we can work on. I work with him more on body position and things like that before training because he always says that at some point it will help him. It’ll be a snapshot of the piece and you can pause the piece and see if I was able to get the body position, which is what we’re working on. It is therefore simply a matter of bringing the exercises to team periods. Like I said, being a former receiver coach, he’s very practical.
There’s a major reason to expect Chark’s production to rebound this season: the addition of quarterback Trevor Lawrence. It was one of many improvements the Jaguars made this season, and pairing an improved roster with a coaching staff who have a proven track record in developing winning programs, Chark said he’s optimistic the team would be much better in 2021.
“Just to go out there and compete, be better than what we were last year,” Chark said in early July. “Season 1-15 is a place where we don’t want to go back. Everyone here understands that. The guys who came in were from a lot of winning programs so we’re trying to develop that winning culture and just that camaraderie here and I think we’re going to do really well. I think we’re going to shock a lot of people. I’m not one of those huge ones at setting record goals or anything like that, or saying how many wins or losses we’re going to have, but we’re going to be an exciting football team for sure.
While the list is improved, the Jaguars are certainly not weighed down by high expectations. In Touchdown Wire’s most recent power rankings, the team ranks only 31st out of 32 teams. But the Jags are a team with a lot of youngsters on the roster, and if those youngsters outperform, this team could be a lot better than that. If that happens, Chark’s play will almost certainly be a big part of it.