JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA –
When Jaguars coach Urban Meyer watched 2020 season film shortly after being hired to get a sense of the talent on his roster, he didn't like what he saw from wide receiver DJ Chark.
Meyer was looking for a big, strong, physical receiver.
That's not what he saw, which is exactly what Meyer told him wouldn't be good enough in 2021.
“I just didn't like how big he was.”
“I just thought his strength was way below average, way below what we expect from our receivers, and he was told that,” Meyer explained.
“He's a big guy who didn't play much last year, and that can't happen.”
Guys like [Saints wide receiver] Mike Thomas and [former Florida and NFL wide receiver] Louis Murphy are those big, strong, fast receivers, and he has to play big and strong.”
Meyer told Chark to get in the weight room.
Get bigger and stronger because you won't be able to help us if you don't.
It was difficult to hear, but Chark, who bounced back from a disappointing rookie season in 2018 to make the Pro Bowl in 2019, accepted it and got to work.
Five months later, the 6-foot-4 Chark is 7 pounds heavier – now weighing 210 pounds – and says he enjoys looking at the scale and seeing a larger number, as well as looking and feeling larger.
“I enjoy a good challenge,” Chark said.
“I enjoy speaking with Coach Meyer.
He's a challenger.
He's going to shove me.
“… But I really like it, man.”
He'll challenge me to be better than I am.”
Despite struggles from quarterbacks Blake Bortles and Cody Kessler, Chark caught 73 passes for 1,008 yards and eight touchdowns in 2019, becoming only the fifth player in franchise history to do so.
Last year, however, Chark missed three games due to injury and struggled with a sore shoulder and back for the majority of the season.
He caught 53 passes for 706 yards and five touchdowns and was visibly frustrated at times by the inconsistency of Gardner Minshew, Jake Luton, and Mike Glennon's quarterback play.
“I mean, we were 1-15 at the time.”
“I don't think anyone played as well as we would have liked,” Chark said.
“Yeah, it wasn't my best work.”
There were times when I let the circumstances — you know, control my output — a little too much.
I feel like if I want to be the guy I want to be, I have to be that guy all the time.”
Meyer expressed his delight at Chark's acceptance of some harsh criticism.
“It shows he's a smart player,” Meyer said.
“The entire world revolves around increasing someone's value, and DJ Chark can increase his value by growing bigger and stronger and playing in that manner.”
And he can also assist us in winning.
I mean, I like the fact that there was no opposition.
He recognised it, and [receivers coach] Sanjay [Lal] has been working with him on it.
“I really like where he's at.”
The additions of rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence and veteran wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. should help Chark.
Jones will draw attention and prevent opposing defences from focusing on stopping Chark, who admitted he struggled with that late in 2019 after establishing himself as the team's top receiver.
According to Chark, his goal is to always outperform 2020.
“I definitely believe I could be a lot better than I was last year,” he said.
“That's definitely the starting point for the rest of my career.”
“I'm not going back there.”