Detroit Lions second-year tight end T.J. Hockenson has looked dominant in training camp
The Detroit Lions are hoping for a breakout season for tight end T.J. Hockenson after an up-and-down rookie year that ended with him on the Injured Reserve list. If how things are going in training camp is any indication, the young tight end is certainly trending up.
Despite the ankle injury that sidelined him last season not being100% healed, Hockenson is still battling it out with his teammates every day. And he’s been impressive.
While he has taken reps against safeties, linebackers, and corners; Hockenson has looked unstoppable no matter who he lines up against. From young, stud safety Tracy Walker to the big, physical Jayron Kearse, Hockenson has been able to work himself open for the catch against anyone.
While the safeties are becoming visibly frustrated by their inability to stop the tight end, they appreciate the reps against a talent like Hockenson. Kearse himself took to Twitter over the weekend to shout out Hockenson and the battles they’ve had:
Looking at Hockenson, it becomes apparent that he has added significant upper-body strength during the offseason. This should help him in the regular season when he has to line up against the more physical safeties around the league. Here’s an example of him beating corner Amani Oruwariye to the ball on a physical play during camp:
Whether it’s been in one-on-one drills, in red-zone drills, or in full team scrimmaging, Hockenson has been handling everyone the defense throws his way with ease. Quarterback Matthew Stafford is clearly feeling a connection with him, hooking up with Hockenson early and often in camp, especially when the offense has been in the red zone.
Hockenson’s not just beating defenders with his physicality, but also by implementing his refined route-running skills. He has always been a plus route runner, but in camp thus far he has looked even better than in the past. His routes have been sharp and his cuts and head-fakes have fooled defenders even when they were expecting said fakes.
There’s no denying that Hockenson has looked terrific in camp and looks the part of a top tight end in the NFL. Now, the hope is that it translates into an every week occurrence at the expense of Lions’ opponents.
T.J. Hockenson has the ability to turn a dominating camp into a big year
In his rookie year last season, Hockenson had a rather disappointing output recording just 32 catches for 367 yards and just two touchdowns over 12 games. Add in the fact that about a third of his production came in one week and everyone is hoping for more consistent production in 2020.
Now the question is; what should be considered a successful season for Hockenson in 2020? That’s a difficult question to answer, but to get an accurate idea you must consider a lot of information.
First, Hockenson is not going to be the primary passing threat/target on this team. He may very well be fighting for the third spot in the pecking order after receivers Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr.
After those two, there’s also veteran wide-out Danny Amendola (who Stafford likes a lot) and the running backs, who are going to get their targets out of the backfield as well. There’s just way too many talented pass-catchers on this team to expect a second-year reminiscent of the one San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle had in 2018.
In 2018, Kittle exploded for 1,377 yards and five touchdowns on 88 receptions. That San Francisco team very little other top-tier pass-catching talents on the team and Kittle was arguably the number one receiver on that team.
More realistic comparisons to match expectations would be tight ends Zach Ertz and Travis Kelce. In their second seasons, the two tight ends had season lines of 58-702-3 (Ertz) and 67-862-5 (Kelce), respectively. Both tight ends had a couple of receivers that were perceived to be ahead of them on the pecking order going into year two.
Look at those two second seasons to base your expectations for Hockenson in 2020. Personally, I’m looking for Hockenson to catch around 75 passes for 800-850 yards in year number two. However, he is a big red zone target and he could definitely see a lot of work in that area of the field.
I’m expecting a minimum of five touchdowns for Hockenson this year, but have him down for seven scores in 2020. But if training camp is any indication, his size and physicality combined with offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell’s playcalling and Stafford’s trust, he could possibly break into the double digits.
Expectations are sky-high for Hockenson this year after his dominating performance in training camp thus far. Let’s just hope that dominance carries over into the regular season this year.