Following the Rookies: AFC South Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jacksonville Jaguars have gone into full rebuild mode ever since the AFC championship loss to the New England Patriots in 2017 where they fielded one of the most dominant defenses that season. With their core of young studs who helped lead them to that playoff birth now either traded or released, they have started to replace some of that talent. Two players who are being thrown right into the fire are cornerback CJ Henderson and wide receiver Laviska Shenault.
CJ Henderson was taken with the 9th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. He has started in all 7 games he has played in. With 33 tackles (24 solo/9 assisted), 1 interception, and 5 passes defended while being targeted 39 times, giving up 26 completions for 301 yards and 2 touchdowns. Coming out of college he was arguably the best man cover corner in the nation with the potential to be a lockdown corner in the NFL. He has the size and athleticism to be exactly that. So far he has looked to be a solid man corner that simply just needs time to grow into his position. One area of his game that has seemed to significantly improve is his tackling. The knock-on him coming out of college is that he didn't show the desire to make tackles let alone actually be good at tackling. In the NFL he has flipped that script showing that he not only is willing to tackle but is good in the open field having only missed 2 tackles on the year. Henderson is a very patient press corner who doesn't commit until he has to and allows his speed, agility, and acceleration to make up for any lost ground. I think there's room for improvement in regards to his hand skills at the line of scrimmage. His ball skills have already shown to be very good. He gets his head around to find the ball, as seen in his lone interception against the Colts where he not only gets his head around but he also comes off of his route to jump the underneath route and make the play. Although he is on an overall bad team I think he has shown to be the best man to man corner from this draft, doing better than Okudah so far this year.
Laviska Shenault was drafted in the 2nd round by the Jags and was used in every way possible in college. As a receiver in every way including deep routes, screens, slants, and as a runner out of the backfield, pretty much anything to get the ball in his hands so he can make a play. The Jags have taken a similar approach to his use, just without the bulk of the workload. He has started in 7 of 8 games, being targeted 39 times for 30 receptions, 323 yards, and 1 touchdown. In the run game, he has 11 rushes for 54 yards. Shenault is at his best with the ball in his hands as he plays like a running back. He is a tough, physical runner who also can make people miss. His route tree is not the most expansive due to his limited route running ability but he has shown very good hands and can go up and make contested catches. He is mainly a gadget player who can make an explosive play anytime he touches the ball. He should be a very exciting piece to see develop next to the number 1 receiver in DJ Chark.