Players make games; sometimes it is so easy to get them in the right position. As the Jacksonville Jaguars prepare for the 2021 NFL season, there is hope that it will for the receiving unit.
“There are a lot of people, a lot of receivers in our group who have different skills and can use them in different places,” explains Jags receiver Marvin Jones Jr. “They put Laviska [Shenault Jr.] in the back room and watch him at work and such. “
The Shenault sophomore recipient has the dodging skills that make him perfect for a backfield scat cat. But Jones’s comment opens the door to the question of what different locations are best for the different Jags receivers.
* For brevity, we’ll only focus on those who have been seriously involved in the past or were drafted as rookie recipients in 2021.
Laviska Shenault Jr.
As Jones alluded to and demonstrated in 2020, Shenault can be an all-rounder. He even stood up almost 20 times when walking back. Shenault’s twitching, vision and speed make him an ideal pawn that can move based on the best matchups and mismatches. According to Pro Football Focus, in 2020 Shenault spent 28% of his snaps in the slot, 69% in wide angle and 1% in line. He’s got the wheels to play outside, the moves to work out of the slot, and the big body – a perk Urban Meyer recently noticed – to scoop someone in the trenches when he’s making a handover and / or has to improvise its routes.
The group’s veteran – and the oldest on the team until Tim Tebow was signed – has spent nine years in the league so far. He’s an ideal external recipient where he’s spent 81% of his career snapshots (according to PFF). It averages 13.9 yards at depth of the target. With Trevor Lawrence in his pocket this fall, his cannon arm should be able to take full advantage of the threat Marvin Jones can bring.
The last three years of Jaguars saving grace, pro bowler DJ Chark returns as Jaguars Star Receiver. He has made a home on the edge, where he can twitch every corner and skip every security. His field and situational awareness, especially in the red zone, make him a constant goal threat and the quarterback’s best friend. Even if the unit is expanded to add more speed and depth, Chark’s position should not change.
Dorsett, a former first-round pick, is a senior recipient who suffered a foot injury and missed the 2020 season. This is his sixth season in the league. However, his 2019 stats actually show a receiver who can be another outside threat to the Jags (he spent 75% of his time there). Meyer Dorsett already paired up with Jones in April, as the duo had to meet the Jaguars’ need for more speed.
Meyer promised last month that Johnson would “play bigger than last year”. That doesn’t mean the staff will bring him to a close – something Meyer admitted he was considering – but the manager believes Johnson will be “right in the middle” of the upcoming offensive. Like Jones, Chark, and Dorsett, Johnson is primarily an outside receiver. But Meyer’s willingness to at least consider getting him closer to the line indicates the staff are okay with lining up the 6-foot-6, 220-pound sports freak inside where he’ll be given the crowded unit may appear at the edge. However, his insane vertical makes it hard to keep Johnson from a corner match, even if it acts as a backup for Chark and Jones.
According to Meyer, the rookie recipient is not an impact type in his unit, but could have an immediate influence on special teams. That is fine, however; Camp played basketball through ninth grade and then attended Georgia Tech amid an offensive change. He’s still scratching the surface of what he can be. But he benched 30 reps on Tech’s Pro Day, a number that would have been a receiver record on the NFL Scouting Combine. He appeared on Bruce Feldman’s annual Freak’s List, a well-deserved spot, and given the depths ahead, has time to adjust to the game. But its learning curve could work in favor of the jaguars as well. For someone still learning the position, Camp staff can play around in multiple positions and roles and see what they’re best at.
Agnew played 46 games for the Detroit Lions over four seasons, but is primarily a special-team player. He has the most punt returns for touchdowns (four) since 2017, the fourth highest punt return yards (857), and the fourth highest punt return average (11.6). He is the only player to have five total return touchdowns from 2017-2020 (four punt returns, one kick return). He will most likely fill the same role with the Jaguars, with the coaching staff going so far as to say so when he was signed as a free agent this off-season. If participating in the games as a receiver, the 5-10, 190-pound player – with his special team vision – will most likely be of use in the slot role.
Wildcard: Travis Etienne
The fact that Etienne ran as a recipient during the rookie minicamp shouldn’t be taken too seriously. As a lonely returnee, he had nothing else to do but hand out Gatorade. So the staff wanted to see what they had. Now, if nothing else, the back can also snap into the receiver. Given Meyer’s openness to wanting Kadarius Toney, it’s not hard to imagine Etienne playing in this type of slot role at times.
No matter what different roles each recipient plays in this group, Jones is sure that they can play off each other and form a harmonious unit.
“We spent a lot of time together, probably almost two months now, so it was good. Everyone is flying around fast and playing big games like we should and how we knew we were going to do it. ”