Detroit Lions: Why T.J. Hockenson is poised for a breakout season

Detroit Lions’ T.J. Hockenson is bound for an improvement in his second year.

Fans of the Detroit Lions thought they were bound for a great season from rookie tight end T.J. Hockenson after Week 1, when the former Iowa Hawkeye led the Lions with 131 yards receiving on six catches and a touchdown in that depressing tie with the Arizona Cardinals.

Following that spectacular performance, Hockenson didn’t even sniff 100-yard games the rest of the season, as he only had one game with 50+ yards receiving (the Week 9 loss to Oakland) the rest of the season before being shut down with a severe ankle injury after Week 12.

While Hockenson didn’t do much with the few opportunities he had (59 targets for 32 catches, 367 yards and two touchdowns), offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell told Tim Twentyman of detroitlions.com that he is excited to give him a bigger role in the offense this year, and is hoping to see him finish more plays in the end zone in 2020.

“He’s got to continue to work on finishing plays when he’s going to the ground with the ball, I think you guys can remember a couple of those. He’s really a tireless worker and he just does a great job, he’s always asking what he can do better or what he can improve on and he’s willing to do anything that we ask. I like that about him, but again, more opportunities for me giving him chances to be able to make plays for us.”

Detroit Lions: Why T.J. Hockenson isn’t the only good tight end with a pedestrian rookie season

While it may be a stretch to say the Hockenson could be one of the best tight ends in the league in a few years, when comparing his rookie stats to those of the game’s best at the position, they don’t look too far off.

Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs, arguably the league’s best tight end, possesses the stats furthest away from Hockenson. While his rookie season consisted of only one game, his 2014 season saw the former Cincinnati Bearcat find the end zone five times on 67 catches and 862 yards.

While those numbers would be a lofty expectation with Hockenson, considering he’s still rehabbing his ankle and will be sharing the field with fellow tight end Jesse James, it’s not wild to expect Hockenson to produce about 80 percent of those numbers this season (around 50 catches for almost 700 yards and four touchdowns).

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Those numbers would outdo the rookie seasons of George Kittle (43 catches, 515 yards, two touchdowns) and Rob Gronkowski (42 catches, 546 yards), who didn’t become household names at the position until their second or third seasons in the league.

The whole point of this is that it’s really hard to excel at the tight end position’s in one’s first season in the league. Hockenson and the league’s best each had their flaws on display as they tried to adjust to quicker, stronger players while memorizing dozens of new formations and route patterns.

Kittle, Kelce and Gronkowski each showed at least flashes of greatness in their sophomore seasons with a bigger role in their perspective offenses.

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Hopefully the same is true for Hockenson, who can give quarterback and potential Comeback Player of the Year Matthew Stafford yet another reliable weapon once he fully rehabs from his ankle injury.

 

 

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