The Detroit Lions believe tight end T.J. Hockenson has a higher ceiling

The new Detroit Lions coaching staff is working around the clock to watch film and get to know and understand the players on the Lions roster. New offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn, really likes what he sees in tight end T. J. Hockenson. So much so that Lynn in preparing an expanded role for a player who took a big step forward this past season.

This past season tight end T. J. Hockenson had  had 67 catches for 723 yards and six touchdowns last season in route to his first Pro Bowl game. Anthony Lynn believes Hockenson is just scratching the surface of his potential.

DETROIT, MI – JANUARY 03: T.J. Hockenson #88 of the Detroit Lions makes the second quarter reception and is tackled by Harrison Smith #22 of the Minnesota Vikings at Ford Field on January 3, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

Anthony Lynn said it was nice that Hockenson made the Pro Bowl but that he and the rest of the Detroit Lions coaching staff believes that Hockenson can be even better and plans to expand the Detroit offense in order to bring that out in the gifted young receiving target.

The new-look Detroit Lions offense will be very tight end friendly. Don’t believe me? Try this on for size, last season while as the head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers tight ends were targeted 93 times.

Lynn likes a high-level tight end on the roster because of what it can mean for the rest of the offense. Both in the passing game, downfield blocking and run blocking. To have a player as gifted as T. J. Hockenson it means that linebackers and safeties have to play a cleaner game. No cheating the line of scrimmage.

When the Detroit Lions drafted Hockenson in the first round out of Iowa in 2019 many thought he was the most NFL ready tight end in the draft. Hockenson struggled his rookie year and then took off this past season.

GLENDALE, AZ – SEPTEMBER 08: A detailed view of a Detroit Lions helmet during the NFL football game between the Detroit Lions and the Arizona Cardinals on September 8, 2019 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

New Lions starting quarterback Jared Goff has a history of targeting tight ends. During his time as starting quarterback of the Los Angeles Rams Goff threw 316 passes to tight ends in his career, including 194 of them over the past two seasons this would seems to indicate a lot of usage for Hockenson in the near future.

For the rebuild Detroit Lions, they will lean heavily on the likes of running back D’Andre Swift and T. J. Hockenson to create miss matches.


The Detroit Lions expect tight end T.J. Hockenson to take “the next step,” year 2

GLENDALE, ARIZONA – SEPTEMBER 08: Tight end T.J. Hockenson #88 of the Detroit Lions catches a pass prior to the NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium on September 08, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)

T. J. Hockenson is the Detroit Lions undisputed No. 1 tight end on the depth chart. During his rookie campaign Hockenson caught 32 balls for 367 yards and two touchdowns in 12 games. A nice rookie season that ended with an ankle injury. Now the young tight end looks to improve heading into his sophomore season.

T. J. Hockenson was the Detroit Lions 2019 first round draft pick out of the University of Iowa. The biggest question Hockenson faces is weather he can be a threat in the Lions passing game week in and week out.

Before COVID-19 shut many things down, T. J. Hockenson was working with  Pro Football Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez. Who during his playing days had rookie numbers close to that of Hockenson. Gonzalez’s rookie numbers were 33 catches for 368 yards and two scores in 16 games.

During the offseason, Hockenson worked out and bulked up. That should help him in his all around game. Bulking up alone does not help a players game. That comes from talent. By all accounts Hockenson has the talent to join the short list of NFL’s best tight ends.

One area of concern is the aforementioned ankle injury sustained last season. Hockenson recently said he is still not 100%. The fact that as time has past and the Lions tight end still has persisting ankle issues is of note.

The Detroit Lions are banking on Hockenson taking the next step forward this season. What is unknown at this time is how much playing time he will have on a bulky ankle.

T. J. Hockenson has all the tools to be an elite tight end. If he can take the next step the Detroit Lions offense will be even more dangerous.

Tight End T.J. Hockenson shining in Detroit Lions training camp

Embed from Getty Images The first stretch of the 2019 Detroit Lions training camp could not have been much more promising for T.J. Hockenson the Lions first round pick out of Iowa. Yet, rookie tight ends usually need time to develop.

As a pass-catcher, T.J. Hockenson is exceeding the high expectations that come with being a top ten draft pick . He runs routes to all depths and has showcased outstanding hands and body control. Working  confined spacing, Hockenson is getting quality separation on his routes and catching everything thrown his direction. He has owned the back corner of the end zone on flag patterns.

The Lions are planning on going to two tight ends and a fullback in the red zone. Given tight end Jesse James and Hockenson, quarterback Matthew Stafford will have plenty of options. Big targets, with great hands. Something Detroit has lacked for some time out of the tight end position.

Through five days of training camp T.J. Hockenson is yet to drop a pass. That should come as no surprise. With the Iowa Hawkeyes, Hockenson had 1 dropped pass in three years as a starter.

T.J. Hockenson is a sneaky athlete who has the speed and quickness to stretch the middle of the field from the tight end position. He is often compared to former New England Patriots tight end and future NFL Hall of Fame member Rob Gronkowski. A lofty comparison to be sure. Yet, Hockenson is living up to the billing.

T.J. Hockenson is a match up nightmare. He approaches linebackers and defensive backs the same and he comes down with the ball.  Hockenson is also strong in running after catch and also as a tight end  is an elite blocker.

One NFL scout said this about T.J. “T.J. Hockenson is gonna be a problem in the red zone. When they were able to clear out space and get him to the back corner, he was basically unguardable. Impressive start.”

It would be one thing if the rookie tight end did it one or two times. But Hockenson is routinely making big play after big play. The Detroit Lions appear to have finally found a tight end who can be a game-changer.

The Detroit Lions select tight end T.J. Hockenson

Embed from Getty Images T.J. Hockenson is not Eric Ebron in anyway. Let’s just start right there. The former Iowa Hawkeye stand out is miles better than Ebron whom Detroit Lions general manager released two seasons ago. With the Hockenson draft pick Detroit filled a glaring need.

T.J. Hockenson is a freak. Standing 6′ 5″ he is a scheme-versatile TE who can play in-line, flexed-out or even in the backfield. His athleticism allows T.J. to be used in many different way.

Hockenson is an impact blocker in both the passing game and run game. At Iowa he routinely hooked onto defenders and moved them out of the way. He also has a high awareness and is outstanding finding the soft spots in zone and works back to the quarterback with ease.

T.J. Hockenson, is more quick than fast. He possesses a good burst away from coverage. He excels in rout running. For a TE of his size Hockenson can run the seam rout as well.

What really stands out is T.J. Hockenson has great hands and body control.  He made difficult catches look routine. Those standout qualities made it hard for Bob Quinn to pass up. Which is why he did not.

Hockenson needs to tone down being overly aggressive on blocking. He got flagged for holding a little too often for the Hawkeyes. That should come with coaching.

In an NFL draft where defense dominated the first round, T.J. Hockenson was the best TE in the draft and it was not even close. He is a game-changer at a difficult position to be one.

An unpopular pick by many Detroit Lions fans. Yet, it was the absolute right draft pick for the team moving forward. Jesse James was signed as a free agent. Now T.J. Hockenson comes in giving the Lions the ability to go two tight ends in a ball control offense.

Given team needs and the value of the NO. 8 overall first round pick, I give the Detroit Lions and A-. They drafted a player fans will enjoy for some time to come.