With the Detroit Lions assembling quite the offense in 2020, T.J. Hockenson could provide a boost to make the offense reach an elite level.
The Detroit Lions offense was largely average in 2020, which could be considered a win considering finishing the season with their third-string quarterback. With a healthy Matthew Stafford, the passing offense was one of the best in the league, and Stafford was near the tops of all passing categories.
With a healthy Stafford, the Lions will hope their offense can be one of the leagues best. Despite strong play from Stafford, the run game struggled mightily, causing several drives to stall.
The Lions added several pieces to help with the run game heading into 2020. Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Jonah Jackson are now starting on the right side of the offensive lines, and both have strong reputations as run blockers. Additionally, second-round pick D’Andre Swift and Adrian Peterson should bolster the running back corp of Kerryon Johnson and Ty Johnson.
The receiving group might be even stronger than last year. Kenny Golladay could be even better after leading the league in touchdowns.
Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola can be counted on for solid production as complementary pieces.
Plus, Marvin Hall, Quintez Cephus, and Jamal Agnew should provide sparks for the offense in a limited role.
All of these pieces should be enough for a solid or good offense, but T.J. Hockenson could take this offense to the next level. He had an okay season for a rookie tight end with 367 yards and 2 TDs in 12 games (Pro Football Reference).
However, he did flash a lot of potential especially in week one, where he had 131 yards and a touchdown.
One of Hockenson’s biggest draws as a prospect was his ability to impact the game in both the run and pass game, which is critical for the Lions offensive game plan. The Lions’ goal was to run the ball early and often to set up play-action passes down the field playing to Stafford’s strength.
Hockenson will be crucial here to not tipping off the defense on what we can do. In the run game, he needs to be a solid blocker keeping him on the field. He was a good blocker at Iowa, and with a year of experience and bulking up, should be improved in that facet.
If he can do this, then he should be able to thrive in the play-action game. His athleticism and size already give him an advantage against most linebackers and safeties, but if they are expecting a run, he could be lethal.
Even without the threat of a run, Hockenson should be a problem for defenses to cover. The Lions have a plethora of weapons that defenses will have to account for. Golladay and Marvin Jones will cause issues on the outside if left in single coverage.
Also, Swift and Kerryon are real threats out of the backfield with home run potential. If the defense chooses not to focus on Hockenson, he can cause some problems.
The reports out of camp on Hockenson have been fantastic. He has been battling with Tracy Walker, the Lions best DB, and carved up everyone else. (Report via Pride of Detroit) With his combination of size, physicality, and skill, it should take an outstanding defender to stop him in one on one coverage. If he can continue his play into the season, he should be a force in the middle of the field and the red zone.
Hockenson’s play can make the Lions offense one of the truly elite offenses in the league. His blocking will be crucial in the Lions finally establishing a run game with their deep stable of running backs. His impact will be felt even more in the passing game.
He should get a lot of one on one matchups. If he can win those often, he could become a favorite target of Stafford and take the pressure off Golladay and Jones.
Tight ends are not often considered key players in the modern-day NFL, but the value of a great tight end should not be underestimated. George Kittle, Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz, and Rob Gronkowski are all examples of how tight ends can be powerful weapons on winning teams. It is not expected that Hockenson should be as good as them this year, but he can still be a crucial piece in a great offense.