Third-year tight end T.J. Hockenson is coming off a Pro Bowl season in 2020, and has quickly become one of quarterback Jared Goff's favorite targets this offseason in OTA and minicamp practices.
Hockenson factors heavily into Detroit's plans on offense this year, and it won't be surprising, based on what we've seen this spring, if he's one of Detroit's leaders in receptions and touchdowns this fall.
"T.J. did some nice things last year and I think his ceiling is even higher," new Lions offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn said this offseason. "I know he made the Pro Bowl and all that, but he can play even better and that was the encouraging part."
New Lions general manager Brad Holmes took notice of Hockenson's progression this offseason, and feels like Hockenson's on the verge of something special.
"T.J. was a guy I was obviously high on when he came out of Iowa," Holmes recently told detroitlions.com. "But I will say watching him now, and even last year and in year's past, he is one of the better balanced tight ends that can contribute in both phases.
"He's got the athletic ability and the route savvy and the quickness and the agility. He's got all that to be a threat in the passing game, but the way he can contribute in the run game as well, sometimes you're not getting both."
Hockenson caught 67 passes last season for 723 yards and six touchdowns. He was also a plus run blocker based on Pro Football Focus grading, and allowed just three total pressures all year as a pass blocker.
"He's not just a Y or receiving tight end," Holmes said of Hockenson. "Out here this offseason he's felt more like a mismatch and I think he's off to a good start. Him and Jared seem like they have a nice rapport going."
View photos from third day of Lions minicamp on Thursday, June 10th.
Hockenson knows his ceiling is still high, and said this offseason he's preparing to be the best player he can be. He wants to be in the same conversation as the elite tight ends in the league, players like his close friend George Kittle and guys like Travis Kelce and Darren Waller.
Hockenson has shown more of his personality this offseason and appears to be having more fun playing the game.
"I think he wants to be recognized as one of the better tight ends," Holmes said. "It's good that he's coming out of his shell. You should be who you are and enjoy playing this game."