Many people believe that Jacksonville Jaguars second-round pick, wide receiver D.J. Chark, will emerge as an immediate play-maker for the Jags, and will likely have the biggest impact of any rookie on the team.
Chark is next up in our Rookie Q&A Series, so I chatted with Adam Henderson of And The Valley Shook, SB Nation’s LSU Tigers hub. You may remember Adam from last year’s series, as he gave us some insights into what to expect from Leonard Fournette.
But now it’s 2018, and we’re all well aware of Fournette’s game as a pro. So, can we expect the same instant impact from Chark? Is his blocking as good as we’ve heard it is? Will he make his presence felt on special teams? Let’s find all of that out and more.
RO: D.J. Chark didn’t have incredibly eye-popping production at LSU, catching just 66 passes in his career, but his 21.9 yards per catch was incredible in 2017 and he also had 264 yards rushing in his career. It’s clear he is a play-maker, so would you credit his somewhat limited production in the receiving game on inconsistent quarterback play/play-calling, or was Chark’s game inconsistent himself?
AH: The in-joke around the Woke LSU fanbase is Danny Etling Is A Good Quarterback, because he kind of was. But while the 2016 offense under (offensive coordinator Steve) Ensminger quietly put up numbers (Alabama game not withstanding), it was still basically an offense that was being installed as the season wore on and there was missed yardage all over the place, be it from spotty line play or from a lack of supporting talent.
And then in 2017 he had to do it again with Matt Canada. If you’re not familiar with Canada’s handiwork, his whole thing was he like jet sweeps and it was no secret that Chark was the man for the job for the most part. The thing about that is if you’re the sweep option and you don’t get the ball on the handoff, you’re probably not going to get the ball on the pass. So a large chunk of the numbers he might have had went missing. And then there was a whole thing about Coach O (head coach Ed Orgeron) putting the handcuffs on the offense in ‘17....
I didn’t realize it before I sat down to write this, but for a guy taken in the 2nd round Chark really hasn’t had the opportunities to showcase his talent that other receivers taken around him have had.
RO: We talked about Chark’s speed above, how can he help the Jaguars as a kick/punt returner? How will his versatility in the running game (which general manager Dave Caldwell seems excited about), receiving game and return game help Chark carve out a role at the pro level?
AH: LSU has developed a long line of “NO NO NO NO YES” punt returners. Chark was probably the best in that line at knowing when to take the yardage he has gained and call it a play. He has excellent vision on returns and it serves him well. I doubt we’ll see Chark with the ball in the backfield as much as we did in ‘17, but I think a great utilization of his talents (would be) running two or three smoke screens to him a game. Get him the ball in space quickly behind two or three blockers and let him try and poke out a hole.
RO: What is your favorite play or game performance from Chark, and why?
Without a doubt the Auburn game. Not only did he have the punt return that shifted the tide, but he had some huge catches in big moments to help stage the comeback.
Editor’s Note: The embedded video starts with Chark’s terrific punt return, but as Adam mentions, he also had some great catches throughout the game. That said, I know some of you will play the video from the beginning, but let’s forgive Chark for that fumble on the first highlight after a monster game overall.
RO:. How is Chark as a route runner? I expect the Jaguars to use him in the vertical game when defenses stack the box to play the run, but are there any other routes or specific plays that you saw Chark excel at?
AH: Chark is a pretty average route runner in all areas except for one, which he absolutely excels at. He is very adept at slowing down to catch the ball. He has shown a tremendous knack of knowing when the quarterback is releasing the ball and knowing how to adjust his route to create the space needed to cleanly make a catch. He probably won’t be the fastest receiver to run a curl (route) or the shiftiest, and he definitely isn’t physical, but he knows how to play a ball. A criticism of Danny Etling was that he overthrows receivers on go routes, but looking at Chark’s film, he spoiled Etling by slowing down enough to put himself between the defender and the ball if the DB wasn’t looking back.
Think of Willie Gault, but just a step or a step-and-a-half slower.
RO: Chark is already getting high praise for his blocking prowess. In a run heavy offense in Jacksonville, this will help Chark get on the field faster, as well as his ability on special teams. Is his strength as a blocker a testament to the coaching staff at LSU, his desire to engage in contact or just something that he brought to LSU from high school? Perhaps all of the above?
AH: His blocking is a pretty mixed bag. He can block well for a receiver, but I like I mentioned earlier his physicality has kind of been his biggest knock. He can probably handle corners in the NFL fine, but like I mentioned before, the smart thing to do is to get him blockers, not the other way around.
RO: Chark already has a strong bond with last year’s first-round draft pick Leonard Fournette. Both players wore the prestigious No. 7 at LSU. In your opinion, how can Chark’s relationship with Fournette give him a leg up as a rookie and help him adjust to the pros?
AH: Oh, I’m sure Fournette is ecstatic to have Chark back in the locker room.
OK, comment section is open — y’all know what to do. Drop in your thoughts and expectations on Chark and his fit in the offense and special teams.