Detroit Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson has learned to expect facing a variety of coverages in his young career. He can expect more of the same in tonight's game against the Green Bay Packers.
Hockenson is a marked man because of his 2020 Pro Bowl year in just his second NFL season.
He won his share of battles, and then some, in the Lions' opener against the 49ers last week: Eight catches for 97 yards and a TD, plus a two-point conversion catch.
"I think I've always said, if they double somebody, somebody else is in man," Hockenson said. "We just have to win our one-on-ones and go that way. We've got to win when our number's called."
There's another side in the game of matchups that gets played out weekly in the NFL.
While defensive coordinators plot to stop stars such as Hockenson, offensive coordinators scheme to exploit what they consider weak links in the opponent's defense.
The Lions are expecting Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers to target rookie cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu, who is making his first pro start because of a season-ending injury sustained last week by Jeff Okudah.
Rodgers made his intentions known at his midweek press conference with the media covering the Packers.
"Any time you've got young guys, you're going to test them," Rodgers said.
Dealing with Rodgers and All-Pro wide receiver Davante Adams is a daunting task for any defensive back, let alone a rookie.
"Just go fight ... just go battle," head coach Dan Campbell said of what he expects from Melifonwu. "Do what you've been coached to do.
"We know they're going to go after him. Why wouldn't they? We would. We would do the same thing."
Melifonwu is bigger than most cornerbacks at 6-3 and 213 pounds. He got this endorsement from ESPN analyst Louis Riddick when the Lions drafted him in the third round out of Syracuse:
"He might be the best press cornerback in the draft. He's got all the ability in the world. There's no reason this young man shouldn't be a superstar."
Running back duo: Staley would like to keep the tandem of Jamaal Williams and D’Andre Swift rolling and not have to back off the running game like they did when they got behind the 49ers last week.
Williams and Swift both had more than 100 yards from scrimmage -- 110 from Williams on 54 rushing, 56 receiving, and 104 from Swift on 39 rushing, 65 receiving.
"Hopefully, the rest of these games we can keep that package together and go with the thunder and lightning combo," Staley said.
The running game is particularly important for the Lions while they develop a passing game that has Hockenson as the only proven receiver.
Carryover: There isn't any from one game to the next, said Lions linebacker Alex Anzalone. Anzalone is expecting improvement from the defense over last week's performance against the 49ers.
"It's an all new deck of cards," Anzalone said. "Everyone in this league is talented. That saying, 'any given Sunday' is true.
"We definitely have the guys to do what we want to do. It's encouraging to know that it's self-inflicted (the misplays).
"It's definitely fixable."
Rookie rush: No surprise here if rookie defensive end Levi Onwuzurike makes some kind of splash play in his first game for the Lions. He missed the opener with a hip injury. He's quick off the ball, with power.
Message from Packers QB Aaron Rodgers: "I think we're a good team. We've been a good team the last few years. Good teams don't usually have poor performances back to back."
The "other" Aaron: Packers RB Aaron Jones on the poor performance in the opener: "A little bit of complacency, I guess. We're kind of riding high. We have to go to work, remain humble and continue to do what got us here."
Lions-Packers breakdown: It's not a tough call to flat out say the Packers will win. They're at home. They're the better team. And they want to make amends on Monday Night TV for last week's performance in a 38-3 loss to the Saints.
Here's the rub that keeps me from going all in on the Packers: While they were giving up 21 points after trailing 17-3 at halftime, the Lions were rallying from a 38-10 deficit to make it a close game in a 41-33 loss to the 49ers.
Whatever the reasons and circumstances, the Packers got 21 points deeper in the hole while the Lions got 20 points closer.
My point: The Packers are favored by 10.5 points tonight, take the points.
Pick: Packers 29, Lions 23.