The Jacksonville Jaguars will be without wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. for a while after he suffered a foot fracture on Thursday Night Football. While it’s never good news to see a player go down with injuries, teams need to adjust and keep going. In the Jags case, sophomore Laviska Shenault Jr. will have to step up in Chark’s absence.
Viska was off to a slow start in the 2021 season. He wasn’t bad per se but he wasn’t a difference-maker either. In the Jaguars’ first three games of the year, the second-year wide receiver hauled in 13 passes for 95 yards and averaged 7.3 yards per reception. Against the Denver Broncos in Week 2, he made an impression for the wrong reasons. He had two catches for -3 yards. How can you end a game with fewer yards than the ones had before it started?
Viska definitely deserves blame for that subpar performance against the Broncos. He was credited with two drops and at least one of them could have given the Jags a fresh set of downs. Then again, the play-calling should also be scrutinized. The wide receiver is constantly asked to make yards on his own and he’s often targeted near the line of scrimmage. By the time he catches the ball, he already has two or three defenders in his face.
It all changed against the Cincinnati Bengals. Shenault caught six passes for a season-high 99 yards. Moreover, he was Pro Football Focus’ highest-graded player on Thursday Night Football. When quarterback Trevor Lawrence needed him, he answered the call. In particular, his 52-yard receptions stood out but it wasn’t his only catch worth a highlight reel. The sophomore showed he isn’t a one-trick pony and can get deep. In case you missed it, here’s the aforementioned reception.
The Jacksonville Jaguars need to get Laviska Shenault involved.
Shenault had a penchant for breaking tackles in his rookie campaign. However, he has the skill set to run different kinds of routes, not just those near the line of scrimmage. That’s why the Jaguars need to get him the ball as much as possible even if Marvin Jones Jr. becomes the Jaguars’ de facto number one receiver in Chark’s absence.
Before the season started, Shenault was seen as a candidate to have a breakout season and a potential Fantasy Football sleeper. Also, former NFL wide receiver and media personality Nate Burleson gave him a cool nickname, “Shenaughty by Nature”. The fact that quarterback Trevor Lawrence is improving every single week will also benefit Shenault. Every week, the former Clemson Tiger is making throws no former Jaguars quarterback in recent years would dare to attempt. It wouldn’t be surprising if the sophomore wideout becomes one of his favorite targets.
The Jaguars haven’t won a single game yet and are on the verge of losing 20 straight. However, they’re showing improvement every week and if they’re going to turn the corner, they will need to get Shenault involved in the offense.