A complete overhaul of this unit was necessary after 2018’s paltry production, and that’s exactly what took place prior to the start of this season. The results have been unsatisfying.
Rookie T.J. Hockenson, the eighth overall pick in April, got off to a great start in the Lions’ opener, with a record-setting receiving yardage mark for a tight end in his debut. It’s been a rocky ride for him since then, as he compiled just 16 catches for 165 yards and one touchdown over the next seven games. A handful of costly mistakes and drops in the endzone have reminded Lions fans of the difficult path that most rookie tight ends must travel.
Most concerning for Hockenson has to be his health. He suffered a concussion in a Week 4 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, though it did not cost him any games. He left the game late during this past Sunday’s loss to the Raiders and was immediately checked for another concussion. He was able to avoid a second serious brain injury, but his health will be an important story to monitor as the season moves along.
It’s been slim pickings after him. Jesse James, brought over as a free agent with a hefty four-year contract has been utterly forgettable in his first season as a Lion. Thought to be a legitimate red-zone threat and chain-mover at 6-foot-7, James has been an afterthought on offense, registering just eight catches for 64 yards on 14 targets, with zero touchdowns.
He did make a game-sealing third-down catch in a Week 2 win over the Los Angeles Chargers, and the Lions’ passing game hasn’t suffered despite his lack of contributions. Still, he’s been a disappointment thus far.
Logan Thomas has been primarily a special teams player, and he has just seven catches on the year. Not much more can be expected from a third-string tight end. His most memorable moment this season is his inability to haul in a game-tying touchdown grab in the waning seconds of Sunday’s loss to the Raiders.