T.J. Hockenson stormed onto the NFL scene Week 1 in Arizona, setting a league record for receiving yards by a rookie tight end in his debut with 131 yards on six catches, including a touchdown.
It was a little bit different story last week vs. the Los Angeles Chargers. The Chargers played a lot of Cover 3, were quick to their spots, and had an eye on Hockenson after his stellar debut. The result was just one catch for the rookie for seven yards.
“I think week to week you obviously have to come to work and you have to be ready for what (the opponent) is doing,” Hockenson said. “Last week they did play a lot of zone and knew where everyone was.”
The NFL is such a week-to-week business, and defensive coordinators are so good at scheming to take offenses out of what they want to do. Young players who experience the ups and the down early on understand that quicker than rookies who just see one side of it.
Lions head coach Matt Patricia thinks the Chargers game was a good learning moment for a young player like Hockenson, and can be the type of thing that helps the rookie grow more quickly.
“That’s something that you can talk a lot about, and we certainly try to do in practice to get whoever it is, whether it’s a receiver or back, a tight end, some of those looks, but until you get into a game and say, ‘Hey this is what they’re doing to get their help or their coverage or certain situations to this particular player,’ that’s where the experience and growth really occurs,” Patricia said.
The soft spots last week against the Chargers’ Cover 3 were the outside parts of the field and down the seams. Detroit capitalized getting the ball to the outside receivers and down the seam for a big touchdown late in the game to Kenny Golladay to help get the win.
The fact that Detroit’s had three different 100-yard pass catchers the first two weeks of the season is a good sign they have the personnel on offense to handle what defenses may try to take away from them. They can get big performances from a lot of different spots.
Hockenson is pretty level-headed for a rookie. He seems to understand what this league is about. When asked about last week’s performance, he highlighted the win as the most important thing. He’s going to have some ups and some downs on the stat sheet, which he’s already experienced, but he’ll continue to learn and grow from all of it.
“That’s really how the NFL has to work every single week,” Patricia said. “Overall, I’d say for the offense, kind of a good learning experience just in general.”
SOLO TACKLE LEADER
After two weeks of football, Lions safety Tracy Walker leads the Lions with 19 tackles. He leads the NFL with 16 solo tackles. We’ve talked before about Walker’s length, speed and cover skills, but as one of the last lines of defense playing safety, Walker has proven early on this year that he can also be a reliable tackler.
The Lions would certainly like to see a linebacker or defensive lineman make the tackle before the ball carrier gets to the secondary, but Walker is proving he can be reliable back there as one of the last lines of defense.
Jeff Driskel has a lot on his plate at the moment. The newest backup quarterback the Lions have added to the roster is trying to learn the playbook, his new teammates and the Philadelphia Eagles – Sunday’s opponent – all in a week.
“Just cramming and learning each day and taking things from (Matthew) Stafford and kind of learning from him on the fly as well as just cramming at home,” Driskel said. “It’s been hectic, it’s been a lot, but I’m just happy to be here.”
Driskel joins Detroit after spending the last three seasons with Cincinnati. A tremendous athlete, Driskel dabbled at playing receiver and some special teams during his last month with the Bengals. He ran a 4.5-second 40-yard dash at the combine.
“He’s definitely a player that we’ve looked at in the past and looked at through preseason,” Patricia said. “Like I said, we just had the opportunity to bring him in and take a closer look. He’s an athletic guy. He’s a big guy. He’s got a strong arm. He can do some of the movement stuff, so just a skill set that we thought was fitting to some of the things that we do.”
In nine career games, Driskel has completed 105-of-176 passes for 1,003 yards (59.7 percent), six touchdowns and two interceptions. He’ll compete with David Blough to be Stafford’s backup.