JACKSONVILLE – DJ Chark Jr. left no doubt Thursday.
A fourth-year wide receiver considered key to the Jaguars' offense entering the 2021 regular season, Chark missed the entire preseason with a hand injury sustained early in training camp.
Ten days before the regular season, Chark said Thursday he will be ready for Week 1 against the Houston Texans.
"For sure; I'll be there," Chark said Thursday.
Chark, a Pro Bowl selection following the 2019 season, spoke to the media following the Jaguars' practice Thursday – as did secondary coach/cornerbacks Tim Walton and kicker Josh Lambo. Chark discussed multiple topics, including his return from the injury that forced him to undergo surgery and miss all three preseason games.
"It's good," Chark said. "It's getting better every day."
Chark, who has been running on the side for several weeks, said he participated more extensively in practice Wednesday and Thursday. He said although "there is still a ways to go, I have good faith in my myself and my coaching staff to help me get there."
"I have 10 more days, so I'll be good," he said.
Chark, a second-round selection in the 2018 NFL draft, has caught 140 passes for 1,888 yards and 13 touchdowns in three NFL seasons. He followed his 73-reception, 1,008-yard, eight-touchdown Pro Bowl season in 2019 by catching 53 passes for 706 yards and five touchdowns last season.
He is entering the final year of the rookie contract he signed in 2018.
"I don't really see it as a make-or-break year," Chark said. "I feel like I'm a talented player every year getting better every year. I just go out and when I'm on the field and try to be the best that I can. That's kind of the mindset that I've had for a few years now – just keep proving to myself that I can better at these routes. When I'm off the field, I have a family that will take my mind off of it. I'm in a pretty good headspace.
"I just like playing football. I've got some cool teammates. It's all cool."
Chark early in training camp spent time daily before practice working with Head Coach Urban Meyer on releasing at the of scrimmage, calling the area "a big focus" for Meyer and wide receivers coach Sanjay Lal.
"One of things they saw they wanted me to get better at was releases, driving and playing fast," Chark said. "Those things help me play faster. When I play faster, I feel unstoppable. When I'm not playing as fast, I feel like I'm not to my top ability and not making the plays I could be making. I don't like that in myself."
Walton praised second-year cornerback CJ Henderson when speaking to the media Thursday, saying he was "real pleased" with the progress the No. 9 overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft made during training camp and preseason. Henderson missed the first eight practices of camp on reserve/COVID-19, returning to play well in all three preseason games. "He's obviously an outstanding athlete; it doesn't take long for him to get back in the flow of things," Walton said. "He was able to get back and make a smooth transition, so we're proud of him for that part. He's a little older and getting adapted to the NFL life. He sees the game slowing down for him." Walton said the team has yet to determine the top three corners for Week 1. "We've still got guys working back through things,' he said. "We'll know more in the middle of next week how that will play out."
Lambo on Thursday spoke to the media for the first time since missing 12 games last season with a hip injury, saying "I'm as confident as ever. I'm as good a kicker, if not better, than I've ever been." Lambo, who converted 76 of 80 field goals for the Jaguars from 2017-2020, missed his first two field goals from 40 or more yards in the preseason – after which Meyer said he was concerned about the seventh-year veteran. Lambo converted both of his field goals – from 45 and 34 yards – in the preseason finale at Dallas this past Sunday, and Meyer since praised Lambo. "Everything has a purpose," Lambo said. "Preseason has a purpose. Yes, you want to come in and be firing on all cylinders. But a lot of times that's not realistic. My goal is to be at my peak Week 1. That may have led to a couple of missed kicks this preseason." Lambo said he has focused this offseason and season more on preparing his body and mind – with extensive yoga and meditation – having finished the 2018 and 2020 seasons on injured reserve. "My confidence level is through the roof," he said.