DJ Chark Answers Urban Meyer's Challenge To Play Bigger and Stronger in 2021
For the past few years, wide receiver DJ Chark has been one of the few bright spots on an otherwise anemic Jacksonville Jaguars offense. The Pro Bowler has proven capable of big play-making ability, being a trustworthy option for the rotating door at quarterback and someone whose talent was able to overcome most of the deficiencies around him.
Urban Meyer wasn’t impressed. At least not with the 2020 version of DJ Chark.
“He didn’t play well last year and obviously, his first year he was very good,” Meyer openly admitted to local media following Thursday’s OTA practice. “I just didn’t like his size, his strength, I just thought it was way below average, way below what we expect from our receivers.”
Meyer was blunt with Chark, telling the fourth-year receiver his play in 2020 was not up to par for Meyer, the Jaguars, or even for Chark.
"The best thing about DJ is he addressed it and hit it very hard,” Meyer continued. “[He] gained seven pounds of muscle, he’s playing a much more physical game, he’s a big guy that played little last year and that can’t happen. Guys like Mike Thomas and Louis Murphy, those big, strong, fast receivers—and he’s got to play big and strong, and he can now because he is big and strong.”
Meyer coached Thomas at Ohio State and Murphy with the Florida Gators. Bringing that comparison in his first year with Chark has let the receiver know it’s time to focus back on a part of his game that he’d lost in the last three years.
“I was very big in the weight room at LSU. I got to the NFL kind of focused more so on skill work,” explained Chark on Thursday. “You have to keep the fundamentals and keep the weightlifting going, and I feel like that’s a part of my game that I lack. So, every year I find something to make myself better.
“I had to re-motivate myself to get in weight room, but now it’s smooth, it’s easy. I enjoy stepping on the scale and seeing my weight. I enjoy looking bigger, feeling bigger, running faster. Credit to the staff that we have here, the weight room, the guys, the intensity that we bring. I really enjoy it. It makes it a place I don’t mind going and getting some work in. I’m not hiding from the weight room. I’m pretty excited, I like it.”
He also likes the blunt assessment from his new head coach. During a time when Meyer is still getting to know his roster and make connections, his willingness to tell each guy what they need to work on is refreshing for Chark.
“I love the challenge. I also told Coach that I’m like that. When I go out there, I ball. I love talking to Coach Meyer. He’s a competitor. He’s going to push me. He also knows I’m going to do what I do; I’m going to step up, I’m going to make plays.
“He’s given me good advice, told me to go get in the weight room. I get in the weight room, I put the weight on, but I know, once again, I’m like that. But I love when he pushes me to be better than what I am. To make him happy, you really have to be balling, so I have to step it up to make him happy. But it’s definitely a good push, I like having a guy like that, an alpha that’s going to push you to be an alpha.”
There can be a fine line between being discouraging and making a player believe they can be more…so to be more. But for Chark, that line was drawn not by Meyer, but by the collective performance of the Jaguars last season. Someone had to push them. And that someone is their new coach.
“We were 1-15, I don’t think anybody played as well as we wanted to,” pointed out Chark. “It wasn’t my best at all. There were times where I let the circumstances control my output. Which if I’m going to be the guy I want to be, I have to be that guy all the time, so I take credit for that. I think I finished with like 700 yards or something like that, which I feel like I’m way better than that, but due to a few missed games and just some games that weren’t good.”
Chark’s season saw him accumulate 53 receptions for 706 yards (13.3 rec. avg.) and five receiving touchdowns. He became the first Jaguars player since former receiver Allen Robinson (2015-16) to record back-to-back seasons with at least five receiving touchdowns.
But Meyer wasn’t impressed. And neither was DJ Chark. This offseason is his chance to make sure it never happens again.
“At the end of the day, the NFL is hard to get yards either way it goes. I definitely think I can be way better than what I was last year. That’s definitely the floor for me the rest of my career. I won’t be going back there.”