After breakout season, Lions looking for even more out of T.J. Hockenson in 2021
In his second season, T.J. Hockenson caught 67 passes for 723 yards and six touchdowns, earning his first Pro Bowl selection. That's the kind of development the Detroit Lions hoped to get out of the second-year tight end they selected with the No. 8 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
When new offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn turns on Hockenson's film, he likes what he sees. Lynn also thinks there's more production to be squeezed out of budding star.
"T.J. did some nice things last year," Lynn said. "I think his ceiling is even higher, and I know he made the Pro Bowl and all that, but he can play even better and that was an encouraging part. I like what I saw on tape, he's a good football player."
From a pass-catching perspective, Hockenson finished third at the position in yardage, but the gap between him and the top guys was significant.
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Kansas City's Travis Kelce, the gold standard at the position, nearly doubled up Hockenson's yardage total. Meanwhile, Las Vegas' Darren Waller led all tight ends with 107 catches. Both Kelce (11) and Waller (nine) also caught more touchdowns than Hockenson.
The Lions are entering a transition year on offense. In addition to a new coordinator, the team will also have a new quarterback, and the receiving corps will likely look very different given Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola are all scheduled to be free agents next month.
That opens the door for Hockenson to play a bigger role in the passing game in 2021.
Lynn, who oversaw the tail end of Antonio Gates' career, as well as the early stages of Hunter Henry's as the coach of the Chargers the past four seasons, knows the impact a top-end tight end can have on the entire offense.
"I tell you what, it creates a very unique matchup because you have linebackers and safeties covering that guy, and if he's a stud, that means it's going to be a long day for (the defense)," Lynn said. "If I force you to put a DB on that guy then, obviously, you've got a lighter box and you then want to run the football.
"You want to run the football into a lighter box. Not only does it create matchups for you in the passing game, it also helps you in the run game."