JACKSONVILLE – He’s talented, smart and approaches the game the right way.
Those are traits about Jaguars rookie wide receiver DJ Chark that stand out to Jerry Sullivan – and those are traits that give Sullivan confidence in Chark’s future.
“He’s got it all in front of him,” Sullivan said of Chark recently.
Sullivan, the Jaguars’ wide receivers coach from 2012-2016, spent the last three months of the 2017 season working as a consultant to the coaching staff at Louisiana State University. There, he worked closely with Tigers wide receivers coach Mickey Joseph, who worked directly with Chark.
Sullivan, now LSU’s senior offensive assistant/passing-game coordinator, got an extensive feel for Chark last season – enough to believe strongly in his potential to develop into a front-line NFL wide receiver.
“This guy’s got the skill to compete at a high level in the NFL,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan, who coached 25 seasons in the NFL and who is considered one of the better wide receivers coaches at the college or professional level, was asked if Chark was the sort of player he would have liked to have coached professionally.
“Ain’t no doubt about it,” Sullivan said. “I like this kid. I like him as a person. He’s a high-character guy.”
Sullivan, who joined LSU’s staff after working with the Tigers during 2017 summer practice, said it was evident upon his arrival that Chark had ability. He had elite speed and size (6-feet-4, 198 pounds), though he had played sparingly as a freshman and sophomore before catching 26 passes for 466 yards and three touchdown as a junior the year before Sullivan’s arrival.
“I knew he could run, and then through Mickey I introduced him to some footwork stuff,” Sullivan said. “He started getting into it, and he made big strides.
“You could see him growing. He has good vision. He has good football IQ. He’s a good character guy and wants to do the right things. He has good intelligence off the field in terms of decisions he makes.”
Chark as a senior caught 40 passes for 874 yards and three touchdowns, averaging nearly 22 yards per receptions. He also had a standout Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine. The Jaguars had a first-round grade on Chark and considered him at No. 29 overall, then tried to trade up for Chark throughout Round 2 before selecting him No. 61 overall.
“He went to work working on his footwork and the stuff that he does,” Sullivan. “He’s learning the craft and should continue to get better.”
Sullivan said part of that process in the NFL will be improving fundamentals he began developing this past season.
“He just has to continue to work on his hand placement,” Sullivan said. “He body catches it a little bit, but he catches it. I would be surprised if he doesn’t turn out to be a good receiver in the NFL.”
Sullivan said a few of factors about Chark stand out. One is that he’s a “good person,” and another is his toughness.
“He’s not a ‘safe-space’ guy,” Sullivan said. “He’s not, ‘Don’t touch me … I’ll fall apart.’ He has some toughness to him and you won’t back his ass down. He’ll go out there and compete at a high level.”
Mostly, though, Sullivan said Chark has rare talent that he believes will come out and make him a successful NFL receiver.
“He’s got tools,” Sullivan said. “In the NFL, you can have a great heart – and that’s good – but you have to have tools to compete at that level. You can’t take a guy who’s 5-10, 185 pounds and runs a 5.2 with a great heart. He can’t compete on that level, because he doesn’t have enough skill.
“He has good vision. You don’t see many 6-4 guys who can return punts. Most guys are 5-10 who return punts. If he gets a step and gets out of the gate, you don’t catch him.
“It will be a learning process like it is for everybody, but I don’t see any reason why he shouldn’t [have an impact].”