How T.J. Hockenson elevates the Detroit Lions offense

Detroit Lions (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
Detroit Lions (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) /

More than a few Detroit Lions fans questioned their favorite team picking another tight end in the top-10, but T.J. Hockenson proved his worth in Week 1.

Much to the surprise of whoever made the 0-11 simulation on ESPN, the Detroit Lions were able to earn a tie in Week 1, playing the Arizona Cardinals to a draw, 27-27.

Part of the reason why Detroit was able to leave State Farm Stadium with a victory was because of a lethal offensive attack. Veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford was able to surpass 300 yards while throwing for three touchdowns in the contest.

131 of those yards and one those touchdowns went to rookie tight end T.J. Hockenson, who became the X-Factor of the Lions offense on Sunday. Not only did those yards have a huge impact on the game, it also gave Hockenson a record for most receiving yards for any tight end in their first career NFL game.

Hockenson was a mismatch all day long, as linebackers all over the field were unable to account for his underrated speed and solid route running.

What Lions fans should be the most excited about is Hockenson’s versatility, as he proved to be a good old-fashioned tight end who can block and catch. He made a key block on Detroit’s first touchdown of the day to veteran slot wide receiver Danny Amendola, while also having a Gronk-esque ability to find the seam of the defense, outrun the linebacker, and adjust to the pass on catches like this.

Perhaps his most prolific highlight of the day came on his touchdown catch, as on a third-and-14, Stafford rolled out to his right and couldn’t find an open receiver. To combat this, Hockenson adjusted on the fly and made a key cut to align himself with Stafford, who released the ball and delivered it to a spot where only the former Iowa Hawkeye could catch it.

Hockenson was able to provide Stafford and the Detroit Lions offense with a subsection they’ve never had before. From Brandon Pettigrew to Joseph Fauria to Eric Ebron to Levine Toilolo, the Lions have never had a consistent tight end that Stafford can use as a safety blanket and a weapon on key third downs and roll out plays.

Having that consistent tight end in the mold of Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz or George Kittle can unlock a new level of the offense, adding essentially a third possession for Detroit to go along with Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr.

A month before Hockenson was making huge plays for the Lions in the regular season, he was trying to find his footing in training camp, which was a bit of an adjustment as he told Michael Rothstein of

"“All of it has been a challenge. To sit here and tell you it hasn’t would be an understatement. You know, it’s the next level. Everything’s faster. Everything’s more dynamic. Everyone is smarter."

Luckily for Lions fans, Hockenson has made that transition seem seamless, earning his way to a starting spot over free agent acquisition Jesse James, and judging by how he played in Week 1, he has that starting spot locked down for a while.

Next. The slightly too early Lions All-Decade Offense. dark

If Hockenson can continue to stay consistent as a blocker and develop more chemistry with Stafford, he’ll have a lengthy NFL career. Being Matthew Stafford’s favorite target can lead to a lot of yards and a lot of touchdowns. Just ask Calvin Johnson.