In addition to “Minshew Mania” taking over North Florida as the tremendous play of rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew continues, the Jaguars have seen their second round pick from last year blossom into his top target.
There were many who questioned whether former LSU second round pick, D.J. Chark, could become a quality number one receiver in the National Football League? But, those questions and doubts are starting to subside.
This after Chark continues to deliver, week after week, including last week’s wild 34 – 27 loss at Carolina.
In Sunday’s game Chark was targeted 11 times, caught eight balls for 164 yarsds and two touchdowns. His gaudy 20.5 yards per catch is also something that defenses are having to scheme and adjust for early in 2019.
Chark has definitely developed a chemistry with Minshew, especially on deep balls helping the Jaguars stretch the defense. And, it’s no coincidence that Minshew being able to throw the ball down field has helped open up run lanes for Leonard Fournette.
Fournette continues to smash defenses, including having 108 yards on 23 carries against the Panthers last Sunday. You combine that with Fournette’s career high 225 yard performance the previous week in Denver, and he is now leading the AFC in rushing.
Back to Chark. His performance last Sunday put him in great company in Jacksonville Jaguars receiving history:
Our @Xfinity Player of the Game joins @JimmySmithJags as the only players to register at least 160 receiving yards and 2+ receiving TDs in a single game.@DJChark82 | #DUUUVAL pic.twitter.com/LRAyFStkky
— #DUUUVAL (@Jaguars) October 8, 2019
Yes, only Jimmy Smith, from the original Jaguars teams of the 1990’s had a game like Chark did Sunday in Carolina. That’s high praise.
Clearly, Chark has room to improve on route running and now, he will likely see even more double-teaming after getting off to such a fantastic start this season.
Coach Doug Marrone told the media Monday,
“DJ has high expectations of himself. He has worked extremely hard. It always goes back to that. He’s playing well for us. We’re happy that he’s playing well. He’s playing with an air of confidence about him and it’s something we hope to continue each week.”
Now let’s see if Chark can sustain it.
Jaguars interviewing former Redskins coach Jay Gruden for OC
The Jaguars continue to look for a new offensive coordinator in an interesting name with Florida connections has emerged.
Fox Sports NFL Insider Mike Garafolo reported on Sunday that former Redskins head coach and longtime Arena Football League star player and coach in the Sunshine State, Jay Gruden is on their radar:
#Jaguars will interview Jay Gruden for their vacant offensive coordinator job, sources says. Gruden recently told @RapSheet he’s “itching to do something” and would “like to have an office to go to.” Perhaps it’ll be in Jacksonville.
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) January 19, 2020
Gruden was fired in October after an 0-5 start and while in his sixth season in Washington. He mostly struggled for the Redskins to have success with a 35-49-1 overall record. However, they won the NFC East in Gruden’s second year (2015) with a 9-7 record, but we’re beaten at home in the Wildcard Weekend by the Green Bay Packers.
Gruden worked his way up to his first head coaching job after having been the offensive coordinator for Marvin Lewis for three seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals. There, he worked with quarterback Andy Dalton and spectacular WR A.J. Green and his final year (2013), the Bengals were 6th in overall offense and fifth in scoring.
The Jaguars have also reportedly interviewed former Giants head coach, Ben McAdoo, and are said to also be considering former Cowboys and Rams offensive coordinator, Scott Linehan, for their vacancy. Coach Doug Marrone fired first-year offensive coordinator John DeFilippo after just one season last week.
While the team termed it “mutually parting ways,” DeFilippo was quickly hired by the Chicago Bears Wednesday, as a quarterback coach. And, obviously going from an NFL offensive coordinator job to a QB coach is not a lateral move.
Jacksonville’s offense sputtered at times this past season, although it was handicapped when prized free agent quarterback Nick Foles was hurt in the first game of the season and missed 9 weeks with a fractured collarbone. Rookie sixth round pick, Gardner Minshew, was good at times in relief and helped Jacksonville win six games overall with his play.
Back to Jay Gruden. He is best known in our state for having been outstanding Arena Football League quarterback leading both the Tampa Bay Storm and the Orlando Predators franchises to Arena Bowl Championships.
Later his career Gruden was a player coach for the Orlando franchise, while also working during the NFL seasons in the fall as an offensive assistant under brother Jon Gruden with the Buccaneers.
Of course, the elder Gruden is now the coach of the Raiders again, and they are slated to move to Las Vegas for this fall. And, it’s entirely possible that Jay Gruden could be joining his brother with them, as well.
AFC Championship game another reminder of Jaguars fall
Two years ago, the Jaguars were 72 hours away from playing the New England Patriots for a spot in Super Bowl 52.
Now, 24 months later, you can’t help but reflect on what the Jags had and how quickly it all came unhinged.
That Jaguars team had magically won the AFC South with a 10-win turnaround regular-season. Now, the qualifiers are: QB Andrew Luck was out for the year with shoulder surgery for the Colts after they had dominated the division in his tenure.
And, further, the Jags did not play the Texans in either game against QB DeShaun Watson. This, as he was still on the bench as a rookie in the first meeting in game one of the year. And, he had torn his ACL by the time Jacksonville played Houston in the second matchup.
When you couple that the Jaguars also playing the winless Cleveland Browns, their schedule definitely fell in their favor to help get to 10 victories.
And without a doubt, they played an ugly low-scoring home playoff game on the Wild Card Weekend against an offensively challenged Buffalo Bills team.
Still, a playoff win is a playoff win, and that earned the Jags a chance to play the Divisional Playoff matchup at Pittsburgh the following week.
And, that Sunday in the “Steel City” Blake Bortles looked like one of the best quarterbacks in the league with decisive accurate throws. Plus, Leonard Fournette was pounding the Steelers between the tackles for a couple of scores (above).
And then on the defensive side, Dante Fowler was attacking the quarterback, and Telvin Smith was anchoring the middle of the defense, plus, returning a fumble for a touchdown.
And, Jalen Ramsey was locking down Steeler receivers in one-on-one coverage in a wild 45-42 upset win.
That was then.
And, just two years later all but Fournette out of those players mentioned above, are now no longer with the team.
The Jaguars defense being hit the hardest by trading Fowler and Ramsey in separate deals to the Rams and then, Telvin Smith abruptly retiring in the prime of his career in the off-season.
Gone too is the man, VP of Football Tom Coughlin, who couldn’t get along with several of those players just mentioned above and got himself fired in less than two years after his team played for the whole thing.
He was fired with two weeks to go in the season by owner Shahid Khan, and just 34 months after his heralded return to North Florida to resurrect the Jags. Khan has elected to keep coach Doug Marrone and GM Dave Caldwell despite them following 2017 with 5-11 and 6-10 seasons.
Jacksonville jettisoned Blake Bortles last offseason opting for high-priced free agent quarterback, Nick Foles. However. Foles never really got 2019 underway with a broken collarbone in the first quarter of game one and the team had to turn to Gardner Minshew, a rookie 6th round pick to lead them for a lot of the year.
So even headed into 2020, it’s uncertain who the signal-callers going to be?
Further, with those defensive names above gone and an aging Calais Campbell too, about the only thing a Jags fan can count on is young pass rusher Josh Allen. And, it looks like, he will be one of the most counted on Jaguar Defenders for years to come.
It’s also ironic that the Jaguars counterpart in the AFC South, the Titans have basically been winning down the stretch of this season and now and the two road playoff games at New England in Baltimore with Jacksonville’s 2017 formula. That would be: a strong running game to set up the rest of the offense and physical opportunistic defense more holding the other team in check.
Will the Titans be able to get over the hump and shock high-powered Kansas City, where are the Jaguars failed to knock off Tom Brady and the Patriots when they had their Super Bowl shot?
We are about to find out at Arrowhead Stadium Sunday.
And it’s understandable if Jaguar fans are watching Sunday and wondering how far they are away from that level of play and that big of a game at this point?
And more importantly, how much longer it will take them to have another shot at playing for an AFC title anytime soon?
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