The Jacksonville Jaguars selected Trevor Lawrence first overall last season but they didn’t surround him with enough weapons, which ended up hampering his development. They rectified that, they signed Zay Jones and Christian Kirk earlier this year. To no one’s surprise, Lawrence’s numbers have improved and Kirk has been a big reason why.
A second-round pick in the 2018 draft by the Arizona Cardinals, Kirk has never had a 1,000-yard season, which the Jags got plenty of flak for giving him a four-year contract worth $72 million in free agency. Leaving aside that players are worth whatever a team is willing to pay them, the former Texas A&M Auggie has become a valuable piece of the Jaguars’ offensive puzzle and recently popped up on a very exclusive list.
Kambui Bomani of Pro Football Focus compelled a list of the 10 highest-grade receivers in the red zone and Kirk made the cut at No. 10. Bomani points out that Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce is the only player with more red-zone touchdowns than Kirk.
"The Jaguars have leaned on Kirk as their new WR1 after signing him in free agency, and that responsibility doesn’t wane in the red zone. He only trails Travis Kelce for the league lead in red-one touchdown catches (five) and ranks top five in yards per route run (1.45) on just eight catches from 11 red-zone targets."
Tight end Mark Andrew got the top spot on Bomani’s list and Austin Ekeler was the only running back included. Amari Cooper, rookie Chris Olave, and Cooper Kupp were among the wide receivers that made the cut.
The Jaguars’ wide receiver corps is far from a finished product
Kirk started the 2022 season strong, catching 18 passes for 267 yards with three touchdowns, and is currently on pace to tally over 1,000 receiving yards. Moreover, his ability to line up at different spots across the line of scrimmage gives offensive coordinator Press Taylor the opportunity to throw off opposing defenses and create mismatches.
Having said that, signing Kirk in free agency hasn’t been enough. Although Zay Jones has been solid, he hasn’t had the impact Kirk has had. Similarly, Tim Jones hasn’t been much of a factor. This is probably why the team’s brass acquired Calvin Ridley from the Atlanta Falcons before this year’s trade deadline.
Also, Marvin Jones Jr. is set to become a free agent next offseason and the Jaguars will have a tight budget, which could make a return complicated, so there’s a good chance their receiver room will look considerably different in 2023. But for the time being, it looks like the Jags feel comfortable with their current group. Otherwise, they would have made a move before the deadline.
You won’t hear talking heads question the Jaguars’ decision to sign Kirk. Instead, you’ll now hear how smart they were for making the move. Given his production, it wouldn’t be shocking to see him make the Pro Bowl.