Detroit Lions: T.J. Hockenson primed to succeed in 2020

T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) /

The Detroit Lions T.J. Hockenson primed to prove first-round tight ends can succeed.

Almost a year ago, the Detroit Lions opened their season in Arizona where tight end T.J. Hockenson lit up the stat sheet in a performance that made the Motor City faithful hopeful for the rookie first-round draft pick. After a questionable selection at eighth overall, Hockenson caught six passes for 131 yards and a touchdown in his first NFL game.

That first week showed promise and potential. But one week doesn’t dispel the comparison to the Lions recent past – first-round pick tight end Eric Ebron. Ebron also showed promise with the Lions before the team cut ties and let him move on to the Indianapolis Colts. Fans are hoping Hockenson can succeed despite the memory of Ebron.

Early on, there was Hockenson fever. But, the Cardinals were notably poor against tight ends in 2019. It was a bit of false hope as Hockenson’s production capped at 32 catches for 367 yards and two touchdowns in 12 games.

The injury bug hit Hockenson against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 4 as he left the contest early with a head injury. A couple of weeks later, he returned to action until Thanksgiving when he injured his ankle versus the Chicago Bears. After the ankle injury, he was put on injured reserve, ending his rookie season early.

Signs of T.J. Hockenson succeeding in 2020

But now, after a full offseason to recover from his injury and reflect on his rookie campaign, Hockenson is primed for success in his sophomore season. One of the main reasons is his improved health. Sure, he could get injured again, but a fresh healthy start after an injury-plagued season is a good sign.

The offense around Hockenson will also play into his success this year. A healthy quarterback in Matthew Stafford and a healthy second wide receiver in Marvin Jones will make a world of difference. Stars like receiver Kenny Golladay still managed to perform at a high level with the Lions backup quarterbacks, but there’s no question that Stafford will be an upgrade this year.

Another thing to consider is that stats don’t always tell the story. Hockenson was lauded as the most complete tight end in the 2019 draft, which is why these Detroit Lions drafted him so high in the first round. What doesn’t show up on the stat sheet are the blocks he makes that open up running lanes or secure the edge or help out the offensive tackles so that the quarterback has time to hit a different receiver down the field.

After putting some solid tape together in week 1, Hockenson also showed every defense that he needed to be accounted for and covered. This attention as a receiving weapon means his routes can bring defenders away from other areas of the field so fellow receivers can get open. With Golladay, Jones and Danny Amendola all returning and healthy, Hockenson stands to benefit or help them get open on any given Sunday.

Finally, a healthy running back in Kerryon Johnson and a new threat in D’Andre Swift add another wrinkle into the offense … and another reason why Hockenson might be open for receptions or making game-changing blocks. If either of these two running backs command attention out of the backfield, it takes one more defender away from Hockenson.

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The opportunities for success in 2020 will be there for T.J. Hockenson and this entire Detroit Lions offense. And a healthy tight end that has shown a ton of promise and potential is primed to flourish in this offense.