Detroit Lions 2020 season-ending report cards: Offense

Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /
4 of 5
T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions
T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions – Mandatory Credit: Billy Hardiman-USA TODAY Sports /

Tight Ends

All eyes were on second-year man T.J. Hockenson, the former eighth overall draft pick in 2019. After an up-and-down and injury-shortened rookie season, he began to deliver on his potential, though there is still work to do for the first-time Pro Bowler.

He tripled his touchdown output, doubled his receptions, and nearly doubled his yardage total form his first season. He showed a penchant for making difficult, shoe-string grabs and emerged as the Lions’ most dependable red zone threat with Golladay sidelined.

Most importantly, he played in all 16 games after dealing with several ailments in 2019. His game-winning touchdown grab against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 7 was a thing of beauty and arguably the biggest highlight of the Lions’ season.

And yet, it’s reasonable to expect more. He needs to produce more explosive plays; he still has just one career game of 100-plus receiving yards. He goes to the ground too frequently and too easily, often when first downs are within reach. His blocking also hasn’t been as good as advertised coming out of college. Still, the arrow is pointing up.

There was little to be excited about behind Hockenson. Following his forgettable debut season in 2019, things had to get better for Jesse James, right? After all, you don’t pay a tight end a yearly average of $5.65 million to be a non-factor on offense.

Somehow, James managed 13 fewer receiving yards in 2020 than the 142 he squeezed out the previous year. He did score a pair of touchdowns, each coming in a Lions win, but he was basically an afterthought once again.

He’s just not athletic enough to separate from most coverages, and he’s too slow to break off any big plays when he does get the ball. James does rank as the best blocker in the unit, but that may not be enough to keep him around in 2021 after two seasons of paltry production.

Undrafted rookie Hunter Bryant was kept on the roster for the whole year, despite being available only late in the year due to nagging injuries. He played just 60 total snaps, and caught just one ball, a 44-yard grab against the Tennessee Titans. The sample size is tiny, but the potential is there. A healthy offseason could do wonders for Bryant.

Grade: B-