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USA Today Sports Media Group

Where will Calvin Ridley, Christian Kirk rank among all-time Jaguars WR duos?

Ahead of the 2022 NFL season, the Jacksonville Jaguars invested in the Trevor Lawrence era in a big way. The Jaguars gave former Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Christian Kirk a four-year, $72 million contract to give Lawrence his biggest target to date.

The move was met with criticism, but Kirk was crucial to Lawrence’s development into a projected 2023 Most Valuable Player candidate. The Jaguars then made a move for the future ahead of the 2022 trade deadline.

Jacksonville sent a 2023 fifth-round pick and a conditional fourth-round pick that could become a second-round pick to the Atlanta Falcons for wide receiver Calvin Ridley.

The former Falcons receiver became the featured target in Atlanta due to Julio Jones’ decline and departure. However, he dealt with injury during the 2021 and only played five games because of a fractured foot and time off to address his mental health.

Ridley was then suspended for the entire 2022 season for violating the league’s gambling policy. If he can return to form following his nearly two-year-long break from football, Ridley and Kirk will likely form one of the best duos in Jaguars history.

Based on production in a single season, Jacksonville hasn’t seen many dominant receiver pairings in its short history. Ridley and Kirk will automatically be one of the most talented duos Jacksonville has seen, but how do they stack up compared to past Jaguars pairs?

5) 2012: Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts III

Heading into the second year of Blaine Gabbert’s tenure in Jacksonville, the Jaguars decided to give him the top receiver in the 2012 NFL Draft. They selected wide receiver Justin Blackmon with the fifth overall pick.

Blackmon didn’t have a great career, but he looked the part of the fifth overall pick in his one full season. The former Oklahoma State Cowboys star earned 132 targets and tallied 64 catches for 865 yards and five touchdowns in his rookie year.

Blackmon quickly became Gabbert’s favorite target, but Cecil Shorts III — who was in his second season in Jacksonville — was the second half of a solid receiving duo. The reliable Shorts had the best season of his career in 2012.

Shorts garnered 105 targets and capitalized on them for 55 receptions, 979 yards and seven touchdowns.

The duo of Blackmon and Shorts didn’t last long in Jacksonville, but their production in the 2012 season ranks among the best single-season receiving duos in Jaguars history.

Blackmon and Shorts combined for 119 catches, 1,844 yards and 12 touchdowns.

4) 2010: Marcedes Lewis and Mike Thomas

In a season in which the Jaguars went 8-8 and missed the playoffs, the 2010 pairing of Marcedes Lewis and Mike Thomas made the season somewhat memorable. Lewis is now a Jaguars legend, but in 2010, he was in only his fifth of 12 seasons in Jacksonville.

He is most known as a blocking tight end, but Lewis had his most productive receiving season in 2010. The former Jaguar pulled in 58 passes for 700 yards and 10 touchdowns to earn his first and only career Pro Bowl appearance.

Outside of the Jags legend’s best season, 2010 also featured the heroics of Mike Thomas. The receiver made the Jaguars’ play of the year when he caught a deflected hail mary to beat the rival Houston Texans on Nov. 14.

Thomas contributed 66 catches for 820 yards and four touchdowns in total during the best season of his career.

Lewis and Thomas combined for 124 catches, 1,520 yards and 14 touchdowns in the season.

3) 2022: Christian Kirk and Zay Jones

Few expected Kirk and Zay Jones to form one of the most productive wide receiver duos in Jaguars history when they first joined the team in 2022. However, by the end of the season, it was hard to deny their impact.

Kirk’s contract distracted NFL fans from the player Jacksonville was adding to their roster. He was a consistent contributor for the Cardinals throughout his four seasons with the team.

The former Cardinals receiver spent the first three seasons of his NFL career in the shadows of Larry Fitzgerald and then DeAndre Hopkins. However, Hopkins was suspended to start the 2021 season, and Kirk produced his best season to date, tallying 77 catches for 982 yards and five touchdowns.

In one season in Jacksonville, Kirk quickly proved his worth. He registered 84 catches for 1,108 yards and eight touchdowns as Lawrence’s featured receiver.

However, he had plenty of help from another misunderstood route runner. Former Buffalo Bills and Las Vegas Raiders receiver Zay Jones had been in the league for five years. His best season came in his sophomore year when he produced 56 catches, 652 yards and seven touchdowns.

Despite his career slowing down, the Jaguars brought Jones into Jacksonville, and he quickly became the No. 2 option. Jones caught 82 passes for 823 yards and five touchdowns.

Jones and Kirk helped Lawrence transform into one of the league’s top young quarterbacks. The pair combined for 166 receptions, 1,931 yards and 13 touchdowns.

2) 2015: Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns

The 2015 season was former Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles’ second year in the league, and his surrounding cast lifted him to the best season of his career. Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns formed a highly productive duo to help Bortles achieve 4,428 yards and 35 touchdowns.

Robinson looked the part of a true No. 1 option and is still trying to replicate the numbers he produced in 2015. He reeled in 80 passes for 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns in his second season in the NFL.

His yards were the second best single-season total in franchise history, and his 14 touchdowns stand as the most in a single season in Jaguars history.

Hurns played the perfect partner alongside Robinson. He was a dynamic second option that turned 64 catches into 1,031 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Robinson and Hurns combined for 144 receptions, 2,431 yards and 24 touchdowns. They are one of two pairs in Jaguars history to each have 1,000 receiving yards in a season.

1) 1996-2001: Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell

And if there was ever any doubt, Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell are the best receiving pair in Jaguars history. It was impossible to pick just one season for them, as their six seasons together would all rank in the top 10 receiving seasons in Jaguars history.

They are the only other duo in Jacksonville’s history to each contribute 1,000 receiving yards in the same season; they did it four times in six seasons.

Smith and McCardell are also the only duo to have sustained success for more than just one or two seasons.

Smith is easily the best receiver in Jaguars history. He leads the franchise in career targets, receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns and was a Jaguar from 1995 to 2005.

McCardell checks in as the second best receiver in franchise history. He is second in franchise history in targets, catches and receiving yards and is third in receiving touchdowns.

Smith and McCardell played together from 1996 to 2001 and consistently got open for former Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell. Smith never had less than 1,200 receiving yards during the stretch, and McCardell never had less than 800.

The Jaguars legends combined for 1,061 catches, 14,365 and 71 touchdowns during their six years together.

Where will Ridley and Kirk rank?

Assuming Ridley and Kirk are healthy for the entire season, they will likely become at least a top-three receiving duo. Ridley’s past suggests he’s a clear upgrade from Jones. If Kirk plays the same as he did in 2022 and Ridley returns to form, they will surpass Kirk and Jones’s production in 2022.

Ridley’s 2020 season showed his ability to excel in the No. 1 receiver role. He produced 90 receptions, 1,374 yards and nine touchdowns in 2020, so he could give Robinson’s 2015 season a run for its money.

If Kirk reproduces his 2022 numbers, he and Ridley would pass Robinson and Hurns for the second-best receiving duo in Jaguars history. While it isn’t impossible for them to put up numbers similar to Smith and McCardell, they likely won’t catch them unless they stick together for a long time in Jacksonville.

It’s entirely possible for Ridley and Kirk to become the second-best duo in Jaguars history, but they have much to prove in their first season together.

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