gruden, redskins have a need for speed outside
BY BEN STANDIG | MARCH 3, 2018
INDIANAPOLIS — Do not fear. D.J. Chark is not worried about any analysis putting him into a one-dimensional, fast-guy box. Focus on the LSU receiver’s speed all you want. Teams in need of a home run hitter on the outside like the Redskins surely are.
“I like to run,” Chark said with a smile during his time at the podium Friday in Indianapolis. “Ask me about my 40 (time). It doesn’t undermine anything. That’s one of my strengths. I feel like it’s a compliment.”
With good reason. Chark’s speed is high-end and why he is projected as one of the top wide receiver options in the 2018 NFL Draft class.
The Redskins lacked a true burner at receiver last season following DeSean Jackson’s departure. It’s logical to think they would find speedsters like Chark appealing.
Only Josh Doctson is a clear outside starter for the Redskins and nobody thinks of the rising third-year target as proven. Jay Gruden said during his lone availability with the local media at the Combine on Thursday that slot threat Jamison Crowder would be the other outside starter, but in an if-the-season-starts-today way, which it does not. Free agent Ryan Grant may return, but he’s more steady than zoom.
“I feel good about where Crowder is and if we get Ryan Grant back, I’m great there,” Gruden said. “But I think probably the consensus is that probably need a little more juice, maybe a little bit more speed to take the top off from time to time.”
Gruden somewhat downplayed the loss of Jackson – “had a little bit of an impact – not as much as people probably want to think.” He emphasized a personal desire for “all-purpose guys. I like guys who can do multiple things because at the end of the day, you’re going to have to play multiple (receiver routes).”
That is true in the modern NFL. So is the concept that, as former Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis explained decades ago, speed kills.
The 6-foot-3 Chark destroyed secondary’s during his senior season with the Tigers, averaging 21.9 yards on 40 receptions in LSU’s run-heavy offense. He finished with three touchdowns.
“It’s pretty tough,” Chark said of the limited opportunities last season.
Tigers running back Derrius Guice is the projected No. 2 running back in the draft behind Penn State’s Saquon Barkley.
“You have to respect the talent we have in the backfield,” Chark continued. “It’s not ordinary talent. I don’t complain, but when you get your shot you have to make the most of it, which I felt I was able to do this year.”
The ability will – or won’t – show on film, though the draft website NFLDraftScout.com ranks Chark fifth among receiver prospects this season. Chark established his speed in the Combine’s 40-yard dash Saturday.
“4.4’s are great so I’m trying to get low 4.4’s. Anything faster than that would be a big accomplishment,” he said beforehand.
Then, he went out and ran a blistering 4.34.
Texas A&M’s Christian Kirk is another prospect worth considering with straight speed in mind. Alabama’s Calvin Ridley, likely the first receiver selected, is plenty fast, but not next level.
As for what else the tape will show, Chark said, “That I play with a dominant mentality.”
The Redskins do not need a dominant addition at receiver, which is good because there really are no such options in free agency this season and rookies typically deal with a decent learning curve. They do need help. They also need speed. Chark is open to helping no matter where he lines up.
“I like to go down field,” Chark said. “So, Z, X, whatever is going down field, I love it.”
Photo by Joe Glorioso for The Sports Capitol