Detroit Lions may have bigger plans for T.J. Hockenson, fresh off a Pro Bowl season

Detroit Free Press

Dave Birkett | Detroit Free Press

A breakout second season may be just the beginning for Detroit Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson, whose role should only increase this fall after the team’s offseason of change.

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

[ The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here’s how you can gain access to our most exclusive content. ]

Hockenson, who finished second on the team with 67 catches, 723 yards and six receiving touchdowns in 2020, likely will be the Lions’ leading returning receiver in 2021.

Marvin Jones and his 76 catches are expected to depart in free agency for a chance to play with a Super Bowl contender, and the futures of Kenny Golladay (a potential recipient of the franchise tag) and Danny Amendola (who hinted at retirement after the season) are uncertain.

Regardless of whether Golladay and/or Amendola return, Hockenson promises to be a major cog in Lynn’s offense.

More: Kenny Golladay and the franchise tag: Detroit Lions have easy decision to make

More: Detroit Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson has become a better pro. Here’s how

Both Lynn and head coach Dan Campbell have an affinity for a strong rushing attack, and Campbell has said the Lions’ offense will be built on the ability to create mismatches with personnel.

Hockenson, who was fourth in the NFL in receptions by a tight end last season, should help in both regards. He played more offensive snaps than every returning Lion but offensive linemen Taylor Decker, Frank Ragnow and Jonah Jackson last season, is a willing blocker in the run game and was selected for his first Pro Bowl largely because of his acumen as a pass-catcher.

“(A good tight end) creates a very unique matchup because you have linebackers and safeties covering that guy, and if he’s a stud it’s going to be a long day for you,” Lynn said. “And so if I force you to put a DB on that guy then obviously you have a lighter box and you want to run the football… So not only does he create matchups for you in the passing game, but it also helps you in the run game.”

Lynn has made tight ends a feature part of his offense in the past.

More: Anthony Lynn won 7 games with a rookie QB in 2020 and got fired: ‘That’s not my call’

Tight end Charles Clay led the Buffalo Bills with 57 catches in 2016, Lynn’s one season as a play-caller. And Hunter Henry had back-to-back 50-plus-catch seasons with the Los Angeles Chargers in 2019-20, where Lynn was head coach.

As for Hockenson, who turns 24 this summer, Lynn said he expects the No. 8 pick of the 2019 draft to be a similar multipurpose weapon in Detroit.

“I think he can develop into that role, absolutely,” he said.

Contact Dave Birkett at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett. 

Articles You May Like

Detroit Lions Rumors: Lions Have 7-Players Ranked In Top-10 At Their Position + Brandon Aiyuk Trade
Lions defensive line depth could be the strength of the defense
Ranking every member of the 2024 Lions: The role players (50-41)
Lions public training camp schedule and how you can get tickets on Tuesday
Detroit Lions sell out 2024 training camp tickets

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *