Vikings 2-Time Pro Bowler Projected to Miss First 6 Weeks of Season

Kevin O'Connell, Minnesota Vikings

Getty Head coach Kevin O'Connell of the Minnesota Vikings.

The Minnesota Vikings will likely be without one of their best offensive players to begin the year and could face several games before he’s back in the lineup.

Ben Goessling of the Star Tribune predicted on Sunday, May 19, that two-time Pro Bowl tight end T.J. Hockenson will start the year on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. Goessling added that he believes Hockenson will remain out through Minnesota’s bye before returning in Week 7 to face off against the Detroit Lions, his old team and the organization that selected him No. 8 overall in the first round of the 2019 NFL draft.

“Because I would imagine [T.J. Hockenson is] on the PUP list through (six) weeks,” Goessling said, per The Purple Persuasion X account. “Week 6 bye is conveniently timed here. And then, oh, look who’s on the schedule Week 7. His old buddy, Kirby Joseph.”

Joseph, a safety for the Lions, hit Hockenson low during a game in Week 16 last season, which resulted in ACL and MCL tears to the tight end’s knee and ended his campaign.

T.J. Hockenson’s Knee Injury Prompted Vikings to Add TE Robert Tonyan Jr.

T.J. Hockenson, Minnesota Vikings

GettyTight end T.J. Hockenson of the Minnesota Vikings.

Hockenson’s likely absence from the early season slate, which is no picnic with three consecutive contests against teams that won a playoff game between Weeks 2-4 (Houston Texans, San Francisco 49ers, Green Bay Packers), led the Vikings to make a move at the position last week.

Minnesota added Robert Tonyan Jr., formerly of the Packers and most recently of the Chicago Bears in 2023, to the roster given the team’s deficiency of pass-catching tight ends.

Tonyan is a more established pass-catcher than any of the other three TEs currently under contract with Minnesota. Josh OliverJohnny Mundt and Nick Muse collectively amassed 39 receptions for 385 receiving yards and 3 TDs last year, per ESPN.

Vikings Must Compensate for Loss of Offensive Production Due to T.J. Hockenson’s Expected Absence

Washington, Commanders, Minnesota Vikings

GettyTight end T.J. Hockenson of the Minnesota Vikings. 

Hockenson, meanwhile, put up 95 catches, 960 yards and 5 scores in 15 games last season. However, those numbers are likely to dip significantly in 2024, particularly if he misses the opening third of the campaign.

Kristopher Knox of Bleacher Report made a very similar prediction on May 10 to the one Goessling offered Sunday. Knox predicted Hockenson will start 12 games this year, which would have him re-entering the starting lineup against Detroit in Week 7.

Knox also projected a major rollback in the tight end’s production because of that, estimating 60 grabs for 575 yards and 4 TDs.

“With running back Aaron Jones now in the fold, the Vikings shouldn’t be as pass-heavy as they were a year ago,” Knox wrote. “Fans can expect to see Hockenson back on the field this season, even if he misses the first few weeks. However, they shouldn’t expect the sort of numbers needed to earn Hockenson heavy Pro Bowl consideration.”

Jones is an adept receiver out of the backfield and should help either Sam Darnold and/or J.J. McCarthy, whoever is playing QB, in Hockenson’s absence. However, the brunt of the responsibility will fall on the shoulders of the team’s dynamic wideout duo of Justin Jefferson and Jordan Addison.

Considering that, the Vikings are strong candidates to pursue another playmaker this summer who can contend for the job of starting slot receiver alongside Jefferson and Addison.

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