While growing up as a youngster and a native of Alexandria located in Rapides Parish in Central Louisiana, former Alexandria High School Trojans star and current Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver DJ Chark used to dream of some day getting an opportunity to play in the NFL.
Now almost a decade later since that time, the 23-year old who also starred as a receiver in college for LSU; is finally getting that chance — and then some. Now in his 2nd season in the League, Chark is having a “break out” season currently for the (2-3) Jaguars; and he will look to continue that trend when they host the (4-1) New Orleans Saints this Sunday at TIAA Bank Field in downtown Jacksonville. Florida.
Many Who Dat fans and especially those who live in Louisiana, most likely can recall that Chark played at LSU from 2014 to 2017, first under former head coach Les Miles and then current head coach Ed Orgeron.
After not seeing much action in his first two years, Chark caught 26 receptions for 466 yards and three touchdowns as a junior in 2016. Then as a senior in 2017, he grabbed an additional 40 receptions for 874 yards and three more touchdowns; and became well-.known among NFL scouts and talent evaluators for his straight-ahead speed,
In fact, Chark was so well-known for his top-level speed and capability to catch the “deep ball”. that he even earned the nickname “The Flash” during his time at LSU.
And now Chark is putting that same speed to use for the Jaguars. who have been the rather obvious beneficiaries of his rapid development following a disappointing rookie season last year.
Coming into this Sunday’s game against the Saints, Chark now has 27 catches for 485 yards — an 18.0 yards per reception average, the best in the NFL for receivers with 20 catches or more. His 5 touchdown catches are tied for 2nd overall in the League, along with Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper. As of this very moment: Chark is on pace to put up nearly 1,600 yards and 16 touchdowns.
This past Sunday in the Jaguars’ 34-27 loss to the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina, Chark hauled in another 8 catches for 164 yards and 2 touchdowns.
While the Panthers defense was still able to hold the Jaguars offense “in check” for the most part during that contest, their secondary clearly struggled with Chark’s big play ability, as the emerging young play-maker gashed the Carolina secondary with three catches that went for over 30 yards.
As a direct result of that stellar performance, Chark now has caught a whopping seven receptions for at least 30 yards, which leads the entire NFL.
And now as the Black and Gold prepare to travel to North Florida to face Chark and the Jaguars, the impetus will be upon the Saints defensive backs — and most likely Saints #1 outside boundary cornerback Marshon Lattimore in particular — to slow him down.
As it turns out: not too many folks believed that Chark would ever get the opportunity to reach this point; since he had struggled mightily as a rookie last season in 2018, after the Jaguars selected him in the 2nd Round (#61 overall) of last year’s 2018 NFL Draft.
Chark only caught 14 passes for 174 yards and zero TD’s in 11 games for Jacksonville as a rookie, in a season which ended for him prematurely after he suffered a season-ending quad injury.
But he never once lost faith in himself or his abilities to blossom into an NFL star someday; and he told jacksonville,com / The Florida Times-Union beat writer Gene Frenette in a recent interview that his struggles last year were simply just a part of his eventually learning how to adapt to life in the NFL.
“I was on my own in college, but this was my first time living outside of Louisiana,” Chark told Frenette. “I had a lot of things going on, on and off the field. Going through that first year helped me realize what’s important, what I needed to prioritize.”
Those priorities included little things such as learning how to get his body acclimated to a specific training and exercise regimen, a healthy diet, and learning the team’s offensive playbook inside and out.
But perhaps his biggest adjustment came when he approached Jaguars wide receivers coach (and former All-Pro player) Keenan McCardell to ask him how to adjust his routes based on coverages; and how to use his hands to catch the ball in traffic
“It’s not really just one thing,” Chark said. “That all has a part in it. You got to take everything serious if you want to take your game to the next level.”
Ultimately, Chark took McCardell’s advice this past off-season and went to train in Dallas with former Oklahoma receiver David Robinson (CEO of D-Rob Sports & Fitness Training), who also trained Chark’s teammate. former Oklahoma star and current Jaguars #2 / slot receiver Dede Westbrook.
Fredette notes that Chark spent two weeks with Robinson in March, then returned for another week after the Jaguars OTA’s finished up in May. That training appears to be paying off nicely, as he’s clearly a different receiver than he ever was last season — and he has developed an obvious “connection” with current starting QB and rookie sensation Gardner Minshew.
Gardner Minshew to DJ Chark for the 37 yard TD. Minshew Mania lives. pic.twitter.com/cn6rHri0Rv
— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) October 6, 2019
“He focused this offseason on making sure he caught the ball a lot more with his hands,” McCardell said to Fredette. “He’s also comfortable with himself right now about his ability to get open against anybody.
“It’s a testament to the hard work he did in the offseason on things like route-running and being dominant at the line of scrimmage. If you want to be a great player in this league, you got to work on your craft day in and day out.”
“You come into a whole new offense and you have to learn the culture of the team, a lot of things go into it,” said Chark. “Some guys are blessed enough to make an immediate impact. Sometimes, it takes a little longer to become a professional. That’s the biggest thing for me.”
Now Chark will get to face the Saints, the NFL team from his home state and an opponent that he knows that most folks back home in Louisiana, will be passionately rooting for against him when they face off this Sunday.
But if nothing else, Chark’s dream as a youngster of some day playing in the NFL has come true; and now currently in the middle of a having a “break out” season. he will look to continue that trend this Sunday against a Saints team that will be focused on stopping him — as the Black and Gold try to win what would be their 4th straight win in a row without Drew Brees….