O’HARA’S FINAL THOUGHTS: Hockenson still navigating jump to the NFL

CHICAGOLions-Bears Final Thoughts: Rookie tight end T.J. Hockenson’s jump to the NFL; message from Jarrad Davis and Random Thoughts on QB matchup, return game, Trey Flowers and sticking with my pick:

Hockenson’s adjustment to the NFL from his three seasons at Iowa involves more than what happens on the practice field and on game day.

It hasn’t been without some bumps, which would be expected for any rookie – especially at tight end with the multiple responsibilities required to play the position.

As the Lions begin the second half of the season, Hockenson has an important role in the Lions’ passing game. He has 22 catches for 296 yards, two touchdowns and an average 13.5 yards per catch.

“It’s been fun, just being with the guys and learning the entire league,” Hockenson said. “Obviously, we need the second half to be a lot better.”

There was a brief down period after he had six catches for 131 yards and a TD in the opener against the Cardinals.

Hockenson had to adjust to the way he was being defended after that hot start. He has bounced back of late, with 14 catches in the last five games. He had three catches for 56 yards, including a 23-yard jaunt with a screen pass in last week’s loss to the Raiders.

“The biggest thing for a young player like T.J., especially somebody that maybe has a little bit of success early in the season, there’s a lot more attention paid to you from the defensive coordinators and the defensive side of the ball,” said head coach Matt Patricia.

“Maybe different things are coming at you, that you haven’t seen before. For the most part, you don’t get a lot of that in the college game.”

Another adjustment is broader fan interest – mostly because of the self-interest of many fans.

“It’s a lot different,” Hockenson said. “There’s a bigger market. You’re not hearing stuff just from Lions fans. You’re hearing stuff from the entire United States, just because of fantasy football.

“It’s definitely interesting. You’ve got guys from Los Angeles texting you. With social media, everybody has a voice.”

Message from the middle: The stats and results from the first half speak for themselves. The defense has been a crushing disappointment, for the yards its given up and the leads it could not protect at the end of the games.

Middle linebacker Jarrad Davis takes his job seriously. He puts in endless hours of film study.

His thoughts on what the defense can do to turn things around in the second half of the season:

“We just have to win one play at a time. That’s the biggest thing. You can try to make a list of everything you want to do. If we come out, and just play and win one play at a time. We’ll be ok. But we have to settle down and make sure we play aware and communicate.

“We have to make sure we all see these situations, and we’re not quiet about it. It’s not a secret. The offenses know what they’re doing. They’re showing us what they’re doing. The film is out there. It’s not lying to us.

“We have to make sure that when we see it, we’re boisterous about it and communicate.”

Random Thoughts:

QB Matchup: My primary thought for today’s game is that there isn’t a real quarterback matchup.

Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky doesn’t compare with Matthew Stafford in any category this season, and that includes running – because Trubisky hasn’t used his legs as a weapon. He’s run 11 times for 46 yards. Stafford has run 20 times for 66 yards.

Last week’s games alone – the Lions’ loss to the Raiders, the Bears’ loss to the Eagles – shows the wide gap between the two quarterbacks.

Trubisky completed 10 of 21 passes for 125 yards and just under six yards per attempt. He had one completion for 53 yards and another for 30. His other 19 pass attempts gained 42 yards – 2.21 yards per attempt. A column in this week’s Athletic pointed out that Trubisky completed only five passes against the Eagles that traveled beyond the line of scrimmage.

On the other side of the country, Stafford passed for 405 yards, three TDs and 9.90 yards per attempt.

Giant test, returns: Cordarrelle Patterson is big for a return man (6-2, 238), and he’ll be a load for the Lions’ coverage unit. First-team All-Pro in his four seasons with the Vikings (2013-16), Patterson leads the NFL with a 30.1-yard average on 15 returns. A 102-yard TD return in a loss to the Saints was the seventh of his career.

Flowers blooming: Defensive end Trey Flowers has started to get steady, if not spectacular, production. His four sacks have come in the last five games, along with six quarterback hits and four tackles for loss. He’s on pace to match his stats in New England, where he averaged seven sacks a year the last three seasons. In other words, the Lions are getting the player they thought they were.

Sticking with my pick: Trubisky plays like Trubisky. Stafford plays like Stafford. Lions win. Simple as that.

Prediction: Lions 23, Bears 16.

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