A battle of No. 1 wide receivers on rebuilding teams will take place on a national stage when DeVante Parker and the Miami Dolphins visit D.J. Chark and the Jacksonville Jaguars for the NFL’s Thursday Night Football matchup in week three.
Both wide receivers are coming off career NFL years and will without a doubt be their respective team’s go-to receiver in 2020.
Parker Has Complete Season, 1000-yard Season
Parker is coming off his first full season that saw him post career-highs in touchdowns (nine), yards (1,202), targets (128) and catches (72). It was the first time in his five-year career that he had triple-digit targets and more than 57 single-season receptions. Additionally, his total receiving yards was 458 more than his previous career-best.
Chark Elevated to No. 1 Role Quickly
Chark was also a prominent starter for the first time in his short career. He appeared in all but one game and started 14 out of those 15. In his rookie season, he didn’t start a single one of his 11 appearances. He jumped from just 14 catches and 174 yards to 73 receptions and notching a 1,000-plus yard season (1,008).
Parker, Chark in Different Stages of Career
Both were without a doubt in their breakout seasons in 2019, but both came at different defining moments of their careers.
Parker was looking like a busted first-round pick, disappointing heavily with no more than four TDs in any of his previous four seasons. Him also never completing an entire season was looming in the balance as well.
He was rumored to be on the trading block for Miami heading into its bye week in week five of 2019 but ultimately was not dealt. He came back and recorded a large chunk of his numbers in the remaining 12 games.
Chark, on the other hand, earned a starting role in Jacksonville. His second season, where many second-year players fall into “sophomore slumps”, was a season to remember for the 23-year-old. He was given the starting platform, ran with it, and overcame the adversity of losing his team’s starting quarterback before halftime in the season opener.
Chark was then faced with the task of working with rookie Gardner Minshew for the following weeks. He quickly became Minshew’s favorite target in the short and long-field. Chark had to take on likely a larger role than he was expecting and exceeded expectations.
Parker, Chark Will Once Again See Fitzpatrick, Minshew
Parker and Chark will likely have the same QBs at the helm in 2020 that they finished with in 2019. Ryan Fitzpatrick will be mentoring Tua Tagovailoa in Miami, while Minshew really has no other QB competition after Nick Foles was shipped off to the Chicago Bears.
Miami, Jacksonville Rebuilding Differently
With two rebuilding teams however, one team has way more expectations than the other.
Miami could realistically look to play Tagovailoa in 2020 and Parker could have to deal with another QB change. The team overall is finally rebuilding successfully, but with that comes the organization trying to add weapons around him.
While Parker’s No. 1 job is safe for 2020, second-year receiver Preston Williams is on the come-up. Albert Wilson recently renegotiated his contract and is also in a make or break year to determine if he can be re-signed. On paper, having three consistent receivers should only help Parker. But, if Williams and Wilson take away from Parker’s production that could begin to come in question – especially with guys like Allen Hurns and Isaiah Ford also waiting in the wings.
Chark also has added company on the outside. The Jaguars drafted Laviska Shenault Jr. in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft and will add him alongside Chris Conley, Dede Westbrook and Keelan Cole. Thankfully Chark heavily outshined these three WRs in 2019, but the added threat of Shenault Jr. will either aid in more production for Chark or have it shift to Shenault Jr.
Offseason Moves Separate Teams Even More
Overall, Jacksonville is severely behind Miami in its rebuild. The Dolphins had the largest offseason in the NFL in 2020 and had the most draft picks. The revamp of the coaching staff and new direction from the front office have turned the team around, at least on paper. What could be a shortened offseason will hinder the chemistry the team builds early, working against them. But, Miami has way more positions filled with depth now than Jacksonville does.
The Dolphins are in win-now mode while the Jaguars are still looking to put pieces together. It is realistic to think Miami could be pushing for some kind of playoff push with all their new veterans and top draft picks. Jacksonville, on the other hand, is likely still a few seasons away from a complete team. It’ll be looking to establish players it definitely wants to keep throughout the rebuild process and that could mean Chark takes a hit to other WRs or even running backs.
Parker Wins Head-to-Head
While Parker and Chark still hold their No. 1 jobs undoubtedly, Parker should still have the edge in the contest and the season. With Jacksonville’s defense still showing many holes, Parker has more of an ability to get open than Chark does in a defense with the top-two paid cornerbacks in the NFL.