Lions Weapon Said to Have ‘Most to Prove’ in 2022

T.J. Hockenson

Getty T.J. Hockenson celebrates a touchdown with his teammates against San Francisco.

The Detroit Lions need big seasons out of plenty of players, but quite possibly the most significant figure to be on the offensive side of the ball.

From wide receiver to running back, the Lions need to see major advances in playmaking from several positions. One spot few people are talking about that might need to see that is tight end.

T.J. Hockenson comes into a big 2022 season, and he needs to put up some numbers in order to be considered one of the elite of the elite at his spot. That’s something Lions fans know, and the national media is keyed in as well.

Pro Football Focus and writer Doug Kyed recently took a look at picking out the players with the most to prove in 2022. As he said, Hockenson was his pick for the Lions. Kyed did concede the player could break out soon, which could net him more money.

“If Hockenson doesn’t sign a contract extension before the 2022 season, he has a chance to reset the tight end market with a breakout year,” he wrote.

An extension for Hockenson has been a hot topic this offseason, and so far, there’s been no movement as it relates to getting it done. That could change if the team decides to act before the season.

Right now, it seems the Lions are content to let things play out with Hockenson and see where he is at come the conclusion of the season. If he has a breakout, all bets could be off as it relates to if he returns.

Nevertheless, the pressure seems squarely on his shoulders.

Why Hockenson Needs a Big 2022 Season

Not only is the contractual issue a big one for Hockenson, but his personal achievement is critical as well. As good as Hockenson is, he still is looking for a breakout moment in the NFL. That has to come soon early in his career.

Thus far in his career with the Lions, the production has been a bit inconsistent because injury has dictated the amount of time he could be on the field. In both 2019 and 2021, Hockenson has been felled by ailments that have cost him valuable time. The potential is there, but he hasn’t always been able to show it.

This year, if Hockenson stays healthy, he has the chance to change how people think about tight ends. He is the kind of player who can catch passes like wideouts while also being valuable blockers. To that end, he could put his stamp on the game as a rising star.

Hockenson’s Career Stats & Highlights

There is simply no understating the importance of Hockenson to the Lions in 2022 and beyond, which is why folks are targeting him for a big year.

The team hasn’t gotten anything from any of the other tight ends on their roster the last few years, and while he hasn’t had the most dramatic statistical impact at all times, Hockenson was easily one of the team’s top rookies in 2019, as well as a top young player in 2020 and 2021 and a player capable of impacting both the run and the passing games.

During his rookie season in 2019 after being a first-round pick out of Iowa, Hockenson fought injury and had only 367 yards and 2 touchdowns on the year. It wasn’t the statistical impact that many people expected from a top selection. 2020 was a major bounce back from that, and Hockenson put up 723 yards and 6 touchdowns to rebound. Last season, Hockenson put up 583 yards and 4 touchdowns to his credit and at times has was the only top pass catcher for the team given other injuries on the roster.

Here’s a look at some of Hockenson’s biggest career plays from 2020 season:

TJ Hockenson FULL 2020 Season Highlights2021-01-22T18:40:58Z

Clearly, Hockenson is on the right track, but there is also a lot riding on 2022. Everyone seems to understand it at this point in time.

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