The Jacksonville Jaguars desperately need rookie receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. to pan out.
Only three years removed from an AFC championship game loss to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, things are far from great in Jacksonville.
The Jaguars have parted ways with many players from that 2017 team. Some of them have publicly ripped the Jaguars for how they ran things or how management handled the departures.
Enter Shenault, an All-Pac-12 receiver from Colorado. The 21-year-old Shenault could be the Jacksonville Jaguars‘ savior.
Laviska Shenault Jr. dominated at Colorado
Laviska Shenault Jr. was the eighth receiver taken in April’s NFL draft. Had Shenault stayed healthy for his college career, he may have been among the top three.
Shenault caught seven passes for 168 yards — an excellent 24 yards per catch — as a true freshman in 2017.
Promoted to the starting lineup in 2018, Shenault turned 86 catches into 1,011 yards and six touchdowns. Shenault also averaged 6.8 yards on 17 rushes and scored five touchdowns. All of that damage came in nine games, though, as he missed three games with a toe injury.
Although Shenault played in 11 games last year, his receiving numbers dipped to 56 catches for 764 yards and four touchdowns. A core injury played a role in the decreased numbers, as did regression from quarterback Steven Montez.
Jacksonville drafted Shenault in April
Projected as a player who could go late in the first round or early in the second round, Shenault entered the NFL as the 42nd overall pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
During the pre-draft scouting process, NFL Media’s Lance Zierlein compared Shenault to Chiefs receiver Sammy Watkins and former Browns wideout Greg Little.
Zierlein considered Shenault’s mix of size and quickness as strengths. However, Zierlein acknowledged that Shenault’s injury history created serious concerns about his play at the next level.
“Shenault shines as a phone-booth bully who’s able to body up and create late windows while securing throws with vice-grip hands. Evaluators get excited by his talent as a direct-snap runner, but sometimes he’s too physical for his own good, which could bring his history of durability into play. … He’s a high-end talent, but not a sure thing.”
Shenault dealt with minor injuries during Jacksonville’s training camp, but is expected to play in Week 1 against the Indianapolis Colts.
Jacksonville listed Shenault as a backup receiver behind Chris Conley.
Laviska Shenault Jr. could be the Jaguars’ savior on offense
Jacksonville doesn’t have a standout offense like Baltimore or Kansas City, but the Jaguars have quietly acquired some solid young pieces.
DJ Chark, a receiver who turns 23 on September 23, caught 73 passes for 1,008 yards and eight touchdowns last year. Dede Westbrook has flashed at times and totaled 1,377 receiving yards and eight touchdowns the last two years.
Chris Conley averaged nearly 17 yards per catch last year, his first with the Jaguars, and finished the season with 775 yards and five touchdowns.
Laviska Shenault Jr. doesn’t enter a totally barren receiving room. Jacksonville also has Gardner Minshew at quarterback, though it’s unknown yet how long he’ll truly factor into the team’s plans.
Can Shenault be the savior that Jacksonville needs? He certainly impressed at Colorado and Shenault’s mixture of speed and strength can’t be taught.
There have been rumblings in Jacksonville about the Jaguars lining Shenault up at running back. Jacksonville cut Leonard Fournette, a former first-round pick, late in camp.
The 2010s were a tough time in Jacksonville. Shenault could be the key to making sure the 2020s are a bit better.