The Detroit Lions signed DJ Chark this offseason to give them some size, speed and playmaking ability on the outside at the wide receiver position.
Chark's been a 1,000-yard receiver in this league, and has been one of the better 50-50 ball pass catchers since he joined in the league in 2018. He and quarterback Jared Goff have built a nice rapport over the offseason and through training camp, and it was good to see that show up Week 1 vs. Philadelphia.
Goff trusted Chark to go up and make a play with cornerback Darius Slay on him pretty tight in the end zone that ended up being a 22-yard touchdown that got the Lions to within three points late.
"Something he does really well," Goff said of Chark going up and snagging those 50-50 balls. "We liked our matchup there and we were able to take advantage of it. I thought he made a great play."
Chark finished with four catches on eight targets (one drop) for 53 yards (13.0 average) with the one touchdown. He also made a heck of a block on D’Andre Swift's 7-yard touchdown run to help spring him.
"I feel like that was something me and JG (Goff) was able to do quite often in camp," Chark said Wednesday of their big-play connection. "It was good to see it translate (to Sunday). Now it's just time to make it more smooth, more routine and things like that. But it was great to know that he had that confidence in me to throw me a ball like that against someone considered one of the game's best corners. Anytime I get that opportunity, I have to make my QB right."
Expect the Lions to continue to stretch the field with Chark Sunday vs. a Washington team that ranked 22nd against the pass after allowing 260 passing yards to Jacksonville last week.
Lions right guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who is currently on IR, had back surgery in Dallas this week, head coach Dan Campbell confirmed Wednesday. It's unclear how long Vaitai will be out rehabbing the back injury, but Campbell wasn't ready to rule him out for the season just yet.
Third-year guard Logan Stenberg started his first career game in place of Vaitai. Campbell said after watching the tape there was more good from Stenberg's debut than not so good, but Stenberg said in the locker room Wednesday he knows he has to learn from his first start and continue to get better.
The Vaitai surgery means Stenberg has an 'unbelievable opportunity,' according to Campbell, to earn extended starting time. Stenberg finished allowing one sack, two quarterback hits and four total pressures with a couple false starts.
Offensive line coach Hank Fraley had this to say about Stenberg's performance: "He had some really good plays that he had in there that you love, then he had some things that he can work on. Let's see what he builds from here. I take myself to my first start and there was a lot I had to clean up. He'll clean it up and we'll go from there. I'm excited for him. He gets to write another chapter in his book, Chapter 2, Game 2."
PRIORITY NO. 1
Campbell said job No. 1 this week for his defense facing a much improved Washington Commanders offense is stopping running back Antonio Gibson.
The Commanders are in a much better place to attack defenses in the passing game with quarterback Carson Wentz coming over from Indianapolis in free agency, and Curtis Samuel and rookie Jahan Dotson joining Terry McLaurin at receiver. But it's Gibson that Campbell and the Lions are extra focused on.
Gibson rushed for 58 yards in Washington's win over Jacksonville Week 1, but he also caught seven passes for 72 yards. Since being drafted in 2020, Gibson has been the workhorse of the Washington backfield. He has 1,890 rushing yards with 18 touchdowns and 85 receptions in 31 career games.
"With Gibson in the backfield, I mean this guy's a – he's a big man that can run, and so we cannot let him get going," Campbell said.
QUOTE OF DAY
"I just wanted to run off the ball and kill somebody, you know what I mean."
-Stenberg on his back-to-back false starts last week.
- The Lions signed running back Justin Jackson to the 53-man roster from the practice squad.
- After submitting the play to the league office for review, the NFL admitted officials missed a potential intentional grounding call against Jalen Hurts on Sunday.