Wide receiver Darius Jennings was a bonafide stud at the prep level. The Baltimore, Maryland native played just about every position on offense for head coach Biff Poggi at The Gilman School in 2010 and that led Jennings to earn a No. 98 ranking by ESPN among their top-150 prospect in the country.
After totaling 2,248 yards and 24 touchdowns for the Greyhounds, Jennings took home the Baltimore Sun Player of the Year award and was named the Gatorade High School Player of the Year in the state of Maryland. He was invited to play in the Under Armour All-American game but chose to forgo playing in the showcase after suffering a concussion in a prior all-star game that year. He left The Gilman School as their all-time leading rusher with 4,338 yards and 53 touchdowns.
Jennings saw the field right away at Virginia as a true freshman. He appeared in all 13 games and caught 20 passes for 238 yards and a single touchdown. He also returned a career-high 30 kicks for 599 yards.
As a sophomore, Jennings set career-highs across all receiving categories with 48 catches, 568 yards, and five touchdowns. Through his final two seasons, he accumulated only 65 more catches for 861 yards and five scores. As a senior, Jennings earned honorable mention All-ACC honors as a kick returner when he took 25 kicks back for 677 yards. He also took 24 handoffs for 115 yards and another score as a senior at UVA.
Jennings went undrafted following the 2015 NFL draft, initially signing with the Cleveland Browns. He spent that season mainly on the practice squad but was able to contribute in four games, catching 14 passes for 117 yards. He spent the 2016 season split between the practice squads of the Browns, Bears, and Jets.
He spent the last three seasons with the Tennessee Titans, bouncing back-and-forth from the active roster to the PS. He played mainly as the team’s kick returner, posting his best season in that regard in 2018 when he returned 22 kicks for 698 yards and a touchdown. His career receiving stats in that same three-year span includes just 27 catches for 235 yards and no scores.
Titans cut KR/WR Darius Jennings, who led the NFL in KOR average last year, per source.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 31, 2019
The woes of the Chargers’ special teams unit has been far from a mystery. It wasn’t too bad in 2018, but it took a step back - especially in the return department - last year and I think that was a big reason for signing Jennings earlier this year.
Years with team: 0
“Darius Jennings signed a 1 year, $935,000 contract with the Los Angeles Chargers, including an average annual salary of $935,000. In 2020, Jennings will earn a base salary of $910,000 and a workout bonus of $25,000, while carrying a cap hit of $775,000.” - Spotrac.com
Jennings led the league in kickoff return average with the Titans this past season. If he is able to do the same for the Chargers in 2020, then maybe this team can finally shake some of the special teams demons that have followed it through three different decades.
There’s only so much value that can be held by a receiver who doesn’t “receive” the ball all that much. Jennings has been in the NFL for five seasons and has averaged just over five catches and under 50 yards per campaign. He’s going to have to be one heck of a kick returner if he’s going to get the nod over any other receiver vying for a spot.
Odds of making the roster/What to expect in 2020?
Before the draft, I would have said Jennings had one of the best chances to make this roster. It seemed like he was brought in to be the team’s kick returner but after they drafted Joe Reed, I’d say those chances plummeted. The Chargers will likely keep five to six receivers at the start of the 2020 season. After Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and the two rookies, I’d say the final spots are totally up for grabs.