The Jaguars wide receiver corps was a weakness in preseason discussions, but they are impressing fans and coaches alike during training camp.
Coming into the season, there were a number of areas on the Jacksonville Jaguars roster that needed attention, and wide receiver was widely discussed as a weakness.
As training camp as progressed, it’s clear the Jaguars wide receiver group has more potential starters than anyone expected, a testament to wide receivers coach Keenan McCardell. A weak position group suddenly looks strong. Decisions are not as easy as once expected. Who will start? Who will be a backup? Who might not make the team?
Starting with the projected number one wide receiver, D.J. Chark is an obvious favorite. He had a breakthrough season in 2019 — 73 receptions for 1,008 yards and eight touchdowns — and his quarterback is returning with him in 2020. He has the size and speed and now the experience to become an elite NFL receiver.
The number two WR position has two players vying for that important spot. First is Chris Conley, a free agent in 2019. He had a solid season last year with a quiet 47 receptions for 775 yards and five touchdowns. He is familiar with the team and this might be an even more productive year for him.
Laviska Shenault is pushing Conley for that number two spot and his versatility could be the difference-maker. It’s possible that he could be the Jaguars’ most productive rookie. This is a great problem for a lower-talent team.
Coming in behind Conley and Shenault is DeDe Westbrook, a very good slot receiver. Westbrook had 66 receptions for 660 yards and three touchdowns in 2019. Keelan Cole, who became something of a forgotten man after a series of dropped passes, has had an excellent showing in training camp.
Rookie fifth-round draft choice Collin Johnson has also shown some skills in training camp. He has the size at 6-foot-6, and the potential to become a factor in the Jay Gruden offense.
The Jaguars will keep five wide receivers and could keep six if the coaching staff thinks that’s a good way to go. There are several other receivers in camp, but those six are the most likely to make the final roster. In addition to wide receivers, Leonard Fournette made 76 receptions coming out of the backfield, and the Jaguars also added tight end Tyler Eifert.
Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden has a lot of weapons — more than most may have figured — to make the Jaguars passing game an important part of the offensive game plan. Defenses will no longer key on stopping the run, stacking the box with eight-man fronts. This should be a much-improved pass offense that could become the difference in winning and losing some games.
That’s a big change from the past.