This season, how good the offense becomes might have plenty to do with how much T.J. Hockenson progresses this coming season. Recently, Pro Football Focus ranked the tight end groups in the NFL. The Lions came in 12th, and writer Steve Palazzolo explained that the man who holds the key to the whole operation might just be the tight end entering his sophomore season.
“T.J. Hockenson got off to an outstanding start to his NFL career, catching six passes for 131 yards and a score in his debut in Week 1. However, he slowed down and caught just 26 passes over the rest of the season. Like many tight ends, Hockenson is primed to take a big step forward in Year 2, as he’s an effective route-runner and is as sure-handed as it gets, dropping just three passes over the last three seasons. Hockenson is also an effective run-blocker, so his three-down ability combines with Detroit’s receivers to give them one of the best all-around playmaking units in the league.
Jesse James returns in a backup role coming off a career-low 53.7 overall grade, while 2019 seventh-rounder Isaac Nauta is a solid blocker who doesn’t provide much in the passing game. Undrafted free agent Hunter Bryant, however, is a potential “move” tight end option who could add another pass-game threat.
Detroit’s tight end production will depend on Hockenson making a Year 2 leap, but he has the necessary tools and pedigree to make that happen.”
It’s true the Lions have talent at wideout, but what they’ve been missing for a long time is consistency at tight end. As the league has become more focused on the pass, tight ends that can spread the field have played a huge role for other teams. That hasn’t been so in Detroit.
This season, the Lions need Hockenson to step up and make a huge impact, closer to the one he made in the first few games of the 2019 season. To that end Palazzolo is right. If Hockenson has a great year, it will make the team’s whole offense much better. Jesse James signed a large contract and more statistical contributions from him would be nice, but it’s clear Hockenson can be the one to drive this bus himself.
While the team might be counting on wideouts, offensive lineman and running backs to come into their own, the pressure isn’t as high on those groups collectively as on the tight end spot. The Lions need Hockenson to step up for the health oh the whole offense.
T.J. Hockenson Training With George Kittle
Hockenson, coming off injury, has gotten back on the field and back to work. That includes a training session with fellow former Iowa Hawkeyes teammate George Kittle of the San Francisco 49ers.
Here’s a look at Hockenson getting his workout in:
A healthy Hockenson 👀, training with Kittle 👀👀👀. pic.twitter.com/7gdY2EOxnT
— FantasyFootBub (@FantasyFootBub) July 8, 2020
The Lions hope that Hockenson can be half as good as Kittle has been during his early time in the league, and the similarities the duo share are certainly interesting. It’s good to see Hockenson’s leg drive looking much better after injury, and he certainly looks ready physically for another season in the NFL.
T.J. Hockenson’s Role With Lions
There is simply no understating the importance of Hockenson to the Lions in the future moving forward. The team didn’t get much of anything from any of the other tight ends on their roster, and while he hasn’t had the most dramatic statistical impact, Hockenson has easily been one of the team’s top rookies in 2019 and a player capable of impacting both the run and the passing games.
During the season, many fans chided Hockenson for not making a bigger impact on the game. He had only 367 yards and 2 touchdowns on the year which is not the statistical impact that many people expected from him as a top 10 selection for the team.
Safe to say if Hockenson was able to play the end of the season, his stats could have ended up different. The Lions will hope he can get things on the right track for 2020.
He must step up in a huge way for the Lions offense to reach all their potential during the 2020 season.