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TWENTYMAN: Tight ends making plays in practice

The Lions struggled at times last season with getting consistent production from the tight end position.

If the first two days of training camp are any indication, Lions fans can expect more from the position heading into 2019.

Rookie first-round pick T.J. Hockenson has made a number of terrific grabs the first two days of camp, especially in the end zone, but he hasn't been alone in that regard. Jesse James has made plays, Logan Thomas has made plays, and even seventh-round pick Isaac Nauta has gotten in on the action.

The noticeably improved play from the tight end position has been one of the early storylines in camp.

"We're all just trying to have fun out here,'' Hockenson said after Friday's practice. "I'm just trying to have fun playing the game I love, and being able to do it with these guys just means a lot. This group of veterans have all taken (us) in really well and accepted me as part of this team and I'm super excited to get started."

Fans attending training camp have to be excited by what they've seen from Hockenson so far. Even his teammates were hooting and hollering a bit as the touchdown catches racked up Friday.

Detroit's tight ends accounted for just 13 percent (43) of the team's catches last season, and the offense simply didn't get the big plays down the seam, after the catch, or in the red zone from the position.

Detroit ranked 30th in red zone passing last season with a team passing rating of just 78.4. The Lions have been working a lot in the red zone the first two days of training camp. Hockenson and Co. have made a lot of plays in those drills.

"I want to do whatever I can to help this team," Hockenson said. "I think we all do. That's what I'm trying to do every single day. Come out here and do my best in order to be a part of this team."

Both head coach Matt Patricia and tight ends coach Chris White have commented about the chemistry in the tight end room and the willingness of the older guys like James, Thomas and Jerome Cunningham to work with the young guys and show them the ropes. It's made for a terrific learning environment, and Hockenson credits it with helping his early acclimation into the league.

It's been a welcomed sight to see this group of tight ends making the kinds of plays we've been seeing early in camp. It adds a whole new dimension to the offense, which James explained this offseason.

View photos from Day 2 of 2019 Detroit Lions Training Camp presented by Rocket Mortgage.

"It's a huge advantage if you have two guys you're confident in," James said of potentially seeing more two tight end sets. "If you have two guys who can go out there and catch the ball, you can stretch the defense a little different than most teams do.

"It's definitely an advantage if you can get two guys out there that you're confident in and can do some different things with – run the ball and pass the ball."

We're seeing early on how this crop of tight ends can stress a defense, even a pretty veteran defense like Detroit's, especially in the red zone.

It's very early into camp, so no solid conclusions can be made just yet, but the Lions' tight ends have been terrific across the board through the first two days of training camp.

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