After breakout season, Lions looking for ever more out of T.J. Hockenson in 2021

Detroit News

Justin Rogers | The Detroit News

In his second season, T.J. Hockenson caught 67 passes for 723 yards and six touchdowns, earning his first Pro Bowl selection. That’s the kind of development the Detroit Lions hoped to get out of the second-year tight end they selected with the No. 8 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.

When new offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn turns on Hockenson’s film, he likes what he sees. Lynn also thinks there’s more production to be squeezed out of budding star.

“T.J. did some nice things last year,” Lynn said. “I think his ceiling is even higher, and I know he made the Pro Bowl and all that, but he can play even better and that was an encouraging part. I like what I saw on tape, he’s a good football player.”

From a pass-catching perspective, Hockenson finished third at the position in yardage, but the gap between him and the top guys was significant.

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Kansas City’s Travis Kelce, the gold standard at the position, nearly doubled up Hockenson’s yardage total. Meanwhile, Las Vegas’ Darren Waller led all tight ends with 107 catches. Both Kelce (11) and Waller (nine) also caught more touchdowns than Hockenson.

The Lions are entering a transition year on offense. In addition to a new coordinator, the team will also have a new quarterback, and the receiving corps will likely look very different given Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola are all scheduled to be free agents next month.

More: Lions kicker Matt Prater wants to be back, but here’s why that’s no guarantee

That opens the door for Hockenson to play a bigger role in the passing game in 2021.

Lynn, who oversaw the tail end of Antonio Gates’ career, as well as the early stages of Hunter Henry’s as the coach of the Chargers the past four seasons, knows the impact a top-end tight end can have on the entire offense.

“I tell you what, it creates a very unique matchup because you have linebackers and safeties covering that guy, and if he’s a stud, that means it’s going to be a long day for (the defense),” Lynn said. “If I force you to put a DB on that guy then, obviously, you’ve got a lighter box and you then want to run the football.

“You want to run the football into a lighter box. Not only does it create matchups for you in the passing game, it also helps you in the run game.”

jdrogers@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

 

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1 Comment

  1. Drafting a receiver will not fix what’s broken for the Lions, that is literally and statistically the saddest defense in the NFL. If available, the Lions must draft the best linebacker by far – Micah Parsons. Add free agent Shaquil Barrett for another kneecap biting presence, as well as an experienced winner and mentor for Parsons, and the dynamic duo of Holmes and Campbell will begin the Lions turnaround the most effective and sustaining way. After successful surgery, I am optimistic Jeff Okudah will have a much improved second year. I believe he and the rest of the defense will benefit greatly by the solid coaching staff Campbell has brought in. Also helping the defense will be a more balanced offensive attack. Super Bowl experienced, and still young Jared Goff is more than capable to lead an offense featuring a strong running game, with play action passes mixed in. The hundreds of 3 and outs we witnessed over the past decade plus, that ended up wearing out our defense, both physically and mentally will hopefully be replaced by sustained drives. We already have the line, the back, the leader, and a couple of top pass catchers. Build up the defense and you will see a much better team that will only get better with wisely traded for draft choices over these next 3 years.

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