T.J. Hockenson became the fifth tight end in Detroit Lions history to make a Pro Bowl in a breakout second season in 2020. The former No. 8 overall pick finished third among NFL tight ends with 723 receiving yards last season, which are the second most a tight end has produced for Detroit in a single season. His eight games of at least 50 yards set a Lions' single-season tight end record.
But for all the success Hockenson had last year, he thinks he left too much on the field.
"There's always ways to get better," Hockenson said after Saturday's training camp practice. "I want to be a lot better than I was last season. I think that's every player's goal. When you're looking at the film from last season it's one of those things like, 'Yeah, I had a Pro Bowl, but it's not near where it could be or where I want it to be.' Blocking wise, route wise, there's some things I tried to clean up throughout the offseason."
Hockenson said it's been fun for him to go through the self-evaluation process and see the growth on the other side of it this offseason.
"Just go back a year and be like, 'man, what was I doing or man what was this?'" he said. "And next year I'll probably do the same thing for this year. It's exciting. It's one of those things you look forward to."
Hockenson has certainly come into his third season ready to make an even bigger impact. He's building a nice rapport with quarterback Jared Goff early on, and Hockenson's been Goff's favorite target throughout the offseason and early into training camp.
Hockenson went out to Los Angles a couple times this offseason to throw with Goff. Hockenson said that's really when they started to build the chemistry we've seen from the two since they stepped on the field together for the first time in OTAs.
"Being able to be friends off the field helps," Hockenson said of Goff. "Just being able to talk different situations and different coverages."
Goff has quickly learned that Hockenson can be a matchup nightmare and reliable target, especially with all the improvements he's made this offseason to an already impressive resume. Consider this: 59.7 percent of Hockenson's catches last season resulted in a first down. That was third best among all tight ends last season. That can endear a pass catcher to a quarterback pretty quickly.
"He's going to provide a mismatch, for sure," Goff said of Hockenson. "Especially when we can get him into 12 personnel and get a linebacker on him or a safety. Anytime we can do that and stretch him out and get him out wide and move him around it's going to be good. He's got a rare skillset."
Hockenson has been really good to start training camp, and head coach Dan Campbell has noticed the rapport building between his quarterback and tight end.
"I have seen that," Campbell said Saturday. "I think that's one thing that JG (Jared Goff) has not really had is a good receiving tight end that he can kind of let go to work and trust that, 'Alright, if the matchup's there, I can go to this guy.'
"I think Tyler Higbee at the Los Angeles Rams is a damn good tight end, believe me, that's not what I'm saying, but Tyler's job description is a little different than Hock. Hock's got to be able to block, but I think Hockenson can be a real mismatch in the pass game. That's really where I think he can excel, and you can feel Jared wants to go to him now. He sees it. So, I do see that rapport."
Hockenson has come into his third season wanting to be better. He's got a chance to be a real difference maker in this offense and become one of the most productive tight ends in the NFL this season.