Is DJ Chark the Answer in Detroit?

It’s been a wild NFL offseason. The Broncos got their hands on Russel Wilson while the Raiders traded for star wide receiver Davante Adams. With all the exciting shakeups to rosters, it’s understandable that the signing of DJ Chark would go under the radar. Even though Chark is not a household name like Adams or Wilson, he still brings amazing value to the Lions receiving core. Chark’s career has had its bright moments, but a rocky stretch as of late has Lions fans questioning his value. His career has proven his worth, and the position he holds on the team is one that should be looked at more in-depth. So, in this analysis, I plan on seeing what his previous seasons have looked like, and what they could mean for his future on the Lions.

Chark’s Jaguars Era 2018-2021:
2018, Rookie Season

After a disappointing playoff run in 2017, Doug Marrone and GM David Caldwell sought to keep their defensive playmakers while bolstering their offense. DJ Chark’s selection in the 2nd round made sense for the team, as many analysts agreed that the WR room in Jacksonville overachieved in 2017. The Chark selection was looking to help quarterback Blake Bortles improve, while also bringing a true Number 1 receiver into the core. However, Chark’s 2018 season was nothing more than a rookie campaign where he could not seem to get his shot on the starting roster. Only catching 14 receptions for 174 yards, it seemed like Chark was still learning this offense and he was not ready for his full utilization.

2019, The Sophomore Breakout

Then, the 2019 season happened. After the horrible 2018 season, Jags fans needed something to look forward to, and it seemed that Chark was the answer. A lone bright spot on a team that looked hopeless, the Minshew-Chark connection was a spectacle to behold. During Week 1 against the Kansas City Chiefs, Chark made his debut breakout performance, grabbing 4 passes for 146 yards and a touchdown. The Jaguars may have lost but Chark kept the momentum going through Week 2 against the Texans (7 catches for 55 yards and a touchdown), Week 3 against the Titans (4 catches for 76 yards and a touchdown), and so on. Week 5 against the Panthers was undeniably his best game of the season when Chark torched the Panthers’ secondary, catching 8 passes for 164 yards and 2 touchdowns. This wasn’t overachieving, this was a wide receiver consistently making plays against good NFL secondaries.

2020 and 2021, Injuries and Bad Team Play

2020 was a down year for Chark, but the playmaking abilities were still there. The Jaguars went on a 15-game losing streak after their Week 1 victory against the Indianapolis Colts, and a losing streak like that takes the whole team with it. Chark ended the season with 53 catches for 706 yards and 5 touchdowns.

2021 was more of the same for the Jacksonville Jaguars, and even worse for DJ Chark. He fractured his ankle during Week 4 against the Cincinnati Bengals and was placed on injured reserve in early October, where he recovered until the end of the season.

What Does the Chark Signing Mean for the Lions?
Knowing how Chark’s career has progressed, it is safe to say that Brad Holmes made the right call with his signing. He inked Chark to a 1-year $10 million contract which is commonly known as a “prove-it deal.” Or, in layman’s terms, a deal that the Lions can easily extend his contract from. If Chark does not work out, however, they can just let him walk and he does not become a financial liability for the team.

Chark has struggled the past couple of seasons, starting in 2020 with some lackluster performances. However, he still showed signs of the 2019 playmaker we all saw like in Week 4 (8 catches for 95 yards and 2 TDs) or Week 9 against the Houston Texans (7 receptions for 146 yards and a TD). Chark holds big play-ability every time he touches the field. Through 2018, Chark has never dropped a catchable pass thrown to him that travels over 20 yards and that over-the-top threat against defenses is one that the Lions have struggled to find.

Detroit ranked as the 22nd worst offense in 2021, and bringing in someone who consistently tracks the football and hauls in big gains will only open up more holes in opposing defenses. Chark not only brings another threat to the receiving core, but he opens up possibilities for more underneath threats like D’Andre Swift and T.J. Hockenson to thrive. On top of that, defenses will have to pick and choose who they want to focus on shutting down. The constant risk of speedster Jameson Williams coupled with the consistent midfield plays of Amon-Ra St. Brown, make that a very difficult choice. Now that DJ Chark is in the mix, the Lions have ample opportunities to take advantage of whatever decision the defenses make.

DJ Chark is guaranteed to make a day-one impact for this new-look Lions team, and his speed and catch radius are elite. His athleticism and possible further development will prove to be a trait that the Lions can build on, hopefully turning Chark into one of the many offensive weapons the Lions will have.