It’s Chark Week! DJ Chark faces off against his former team as the Jacksonville Jaguars come to town, and the timing couldn’t be better. Chark just returned for the Detroit Lions’ last two matchups after missing seven weeks due to injury, and he’s starting to show signs of chemistry with Jared Goff.
Bold prediction of the week: D.J. Chark has 75+ yards, 1+ TD against Jacksonville
Don’t let Chark’s performance this season fool you; he is a very capable receiver. However, to say his career has been a rollercoaster would be an understatement. In 2019, Chark had 1,008 receiving yards and eight touchdown catches with Nick Foles at quarterback. In his four and a half other seasons combined, Chark has 1,142 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. The Lions got Chark at such a good price because his career has been riddled by injury, so they knew what they were signing up for.
The Lions made it clear last week against the Bills that they want to get Chark involved now that he’s back and healthy. In addition to his two catches (including a very nice touchdown grab), Chark was the intended recipient of the notorious third-and-1 long ball that came up well short. With another week to mesh with the offense and a matchup against his former team, I don’t see those targets going anywhere but up.
Any good rollercoaster has its ups and downs, and unfortunately for Chark, the start of his tenure as a Lion has been another injury-riddled low. I say this with no reasoning other than a gut feeling, but it’s due time for Chark to have a high. He played like a true number one receiver in Jacksonville in 2019, and he doesn’t even have to be that in Detroit. With Amon-Ra St. Brown commanding the defense’s attention, especially after his stellar Thanksgiving performance in front of the whole nation, Chark should be able to find several one-on-one matchups Sunday against Jacksonville.
And while Chark said this week there’s not really any extra motivation going against his former team, he’s got plenty of things to prove because of all the time missed to injury.
“I’ve missed six games, so at this point, every game is circled on the calendar,” Chark said. “I jut want to get out there and show myself what I can do. I’m happy that I was able to get back in time to play in this game, but for me, really, every game is the same.”
There is, of course, the usual threat of Jared Goff playing like Jared Goff. A large part of Chark’s silence while on the field this year is due to Goff’s reluctance to look for, let alone throw, the deep ball. Then there’s the prospect of Chark’s deep targets getting siphoned away by the return of Jameson Williams. Williams is a burner more than anything else, and if the Lions want him to be anything more than a decoy Sunday then it’s almost guaranteed they’re going to give him deep targets.
On the flip side, Jamo’s return could take the top off of defenses for Chark to stretch the middle of the field. Likewise, we could see Jared Goff get comfortable with Chark as they get more reps in together. There are a lot of variables in play Sunday, but Ben Johnson’s commitment to spreading the ball around and Chark’s emotional investment in this game have him set up well to have his best game in years.