His first season in Detroit was overall a disappointment, but DJ Chark did show signs he can be what the Lions envisioned he’d be.
In desperate need of a bigger wide receiver who is a downfield threat, the Detroit Lions took a well-calculated flier on DJ Chark in 2022 free agency. Coming off only playing four games for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2021 due to an ankle injury, but with a 1,000-yard Pro Bowl season on his resume, it was the dictionary definition of a prove-it deal for Chark.
Chark struggled to connect with Jared Goff consistently early in the season. Then an aggravation of that ankle issue ultimately cost him six games. So his raw numbers–30 receptions for 502 yards and three touchdowns–definitely land as a disappointment.
But once he was healthy, Chark was a big factor in the Lions passing game late in the season. He topped 90 yards three times in a four-week stretch from Week 13-16, then two of his three catches in Week 18 came on critical fourth downs to seal the win over the Packers.
From Week 13-17, Chark averaged 20.8 yards a catch as the downfield threat the Lions hoped they would have when they signed him.
DJ Chark showed signs he can be just what the Lions envisioned he’d be
On Thursday, the Lions PR Twitter account posted the following notes on Chark’s 2022 season.
- Recorded a first down on 80 percent his receptions, tied for the third-best rate in the NFL (minimim 30 receptions)
- Ranked sixth in the league in yards per catch (16.7, minimum 30 catches)
- Among 124 players with at least 50 targets this season, ranked second with a 15.9 yard average depth of target (according to Pro Football Focus)
- Among the same 124 players with at least 50 targets, ranked third with a 29.4 percent deep target rate (20-plus yards downfield, via PFF)
Going further, via Marcus Mosher of PFF, Chark came in sixth among wide receivers with a 17.3 percent “big play rate” this season (nine on 52 targets). A big play is defined as a catch of 20-plus yards or a run of 10-plus yards.
Lions wide receiver Kalif Raymond landed in the top-20 (tied for 19th) with a 15.5 percent big play rate.
Chark doesn’t have to have 80 catches to make a big impact on an offense. He has joined the crowd of Lions free agents who want to be back, for what it’s worth.
The questions on the Lions’ end are if they feel they have an unquestioned in-house replacement in Jameson Williams, or they think they can sign someone with a comparable skill set to Chark but without the recent injury concerns.
But there’s no doubt the Lions got a glimpse of what they hoped Chark would be over a full season. And that may be enough for them to bring him back for next season.